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Tom Davenport Retires from National Grape Cooperative


By Terry Bates
Director, Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory

Tom Davenport
Tom Davenport (center) with Westfield growers Bob and Dawn Betts. (photo credit: Terry Bates)

Tom Davenport concluded 42 years of service to National Grape Cooperative in the same modest and hard-working style that defined his career. At a reception October 29 at the new Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory (CLEREL), Davenport focused on thanking colleagues, friends, and family rather than recognition for his accomplishments.

In 1966, Davenport joined National Grape Cooperative, a grower-owned syndicate that owns Welch's, Inc., in the U.S. and Canada, soon after graduating from Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. Davenport started as a field representative, moved up to area manager, and ultimately became director of viticulture, a position he held since 1990. During Davenport’s four-decade career, national grape growers have delivered 8.5 million grape tons, made advances in vineyard technology and production practices, and remained viable in a competitive global market.

A champion of partnerships among industry, academia, and government, Davenport has promoted such collaborations in three growing regions. In New York, he led an initiative to build a processor-based funding model to support research and extension, and he coordinated research efforts in New York, Michigan, and Washington. Through his fundraising and lobbying, Davenport was a driving force in the creation of the CLEREL facility in Portland, N.Y.

Most recently, Davenport chaired the National Grape and Wine Initiative, an industry-driven partnership with academic and government representatives to strengthen the competitiveness of America’s grape and grape-product industries through a focus on research and extension.

Davenport will remain connected to grape projects in retirement, but many in the industry will miss his daily leadership, experience, and work ethic.