It is with great sadness that we write to let you know a beloved member of our team, Erica Cummings, passed away on Saturday, March 27, 2021. Erica was not only a colleague but a dear friend to our team and to those she worked with during her time at UVM. Erica joined the Northwest Crops and Soils (NWCS) Team in 2008 and immediately took on a leadership role in grain research and outreach. Under Heather’s leadership, she worked to develop and implement hundreds of research trials. She was proud of her work and was excited to share it with the farming community. Erica’s commitment went beyond just conducting the research, she was also a generous teacher and mentor, sharing the results of our work with farmers, scientists, students and other audiences interested in our projects. All of the NWCS team have fond memories of working with Erica and learning from her as she was patient and generous with knowledge and time. She talked with you, not at you and valued what others had to offer. As long as you picked up after yourself, she was pretty easy to get along with! Erica valued and loved the time that she got to spend working one-on-one with farmers. She helped farmers develop nutrient management plans, identify pests, learn about growing grains and, most of all, was just always willing to help.
Erica was a pillar on our Team, it was hard to see her leave for a new opportunity at the end of the grain season of 2018. However, we kept in touch as Erica continued to be interested in how the farmers and others with whom she worked were faring. It is hard to know that we won’t be able to share these times anymore BUT we know that she will always be in the field with us as we packet seed, lay out the field trials, prepare the boxes to plant, and sending Heather off on the planter to get that first crop in the ground! Erica never left the field until we were done regardless of what time it was.
She worked closely with the Northern Grain Growers Association helping this small but growing industry overcome challenges and find new opportunities. Together, we took many trips to learn about grains in England and Denmark and Alberta. All along the way, we met new friends, learned new information and had a really fun time.
Of her greatest gifts to our Team was her commitment to grains quality. If it wasn’t for Erica, there would be no UVM Cereal Grain Testing Laboratory. Knowing that in order to expand the local grain economy, we needed to help farmers raise grains that met particular quality standards, Erica took on the challenge! She set up the required equipment, protocols and, of course, safety standards to open the first public cereal grain testing lab east of Mississippi at that time. The lab received samples from all over the country and clearly was meeting a need of the farming community. Our local farmers were so thankful to have this service right next door. They especially loved the fact that they could just call Erica to get the results of their sample a little faster or that very day! This was Erica’s lab and she continued to operate the lab, training students and staff on these skills.
In honor of Erica, the lab that she established will be dedicated in her name as the E.E. Cummings Crop Testing Laboratory. We intend to honor Erica’s passion for agriculture and commitment to farmers by continuing to offer our research and services, knowing that she will still be there watching over us all, and remembering her beautiful smile, kindness and willingness to pitch in. Thank you, Erica!!
Visit the E. E. Cummings Crop Testing Laboratory at the University of Vermont web page.