After earning her undergraduate degree in regional economic development, Sarah Cook joined the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Center of Innovation for Agribusiness on the University of Georgia Tifton campus. It was there that she fully grasped the importance of Georgia’s No. 1 industry.
While working with small food-processing companies to help them establish their businesses, Cook took the opportunity to re-enroll at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), where she completed her master’s degree in agricultural leadership in 2014.
On July 1, Cook was installed as president of the CAES Alumni Association for the 2021-22 term.
As director of domestic and international trade for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Cook assists Georgia producers in marketing and distributing their products to foreign and domestic buyers and through national trade shows.
“I have worked with about 100 companies over past three years, and we have about 300 companies in our database,” Cook said. “I primarily focus on value-added food products — jams, jellies, pickles — but we also work with produce. When we attend the big produce trade shows we take about 20 companies with us, as well as growers’ associations, like the Georgia Pecan Growers Association.”
The position is an ideal fit for her combined experience in regional economic development and agricultural innovation — as well as her personal background growing up in rural Ashburn, Georgia.
“Our family was from a small town in rural south New Jersey. My parents were entrepreneurial, and they saw an ad for a house for sale in Better Homes and Gardens. My father was a tow truck driver and junkyard operator, which is a 24-7 job,” Cook said. “They knew they wanted to move further south. They found a house in Ashburn and decided it was good for our family.”
Her father started a business then took a job as the local zoning administrator while her mother stayed at home with Cook and her sisters before serving in several volunteer positions once the children were in school.
“They were always civically minded and really fostered our love for community,” Cook said.
Cook became involved with the CAES Alumni Association soon after graduating and appreciates the additional connections it provides to others in the agriculture industry.
“Agriculture, more than almost any other industry, has a familial aspect to it. It is a hugging industry instead of a handshake industry,” she said. “It is naturally familial, and I want to keep those ties up not only in the industry, but at the college. Because of where I am in the industry, this is where my ties are. This is where my network comes together, so it is a natural alignment to support the college through my service to the Alumni Association.”
CAES Alumni Director Suzanne Griffeth added, “We are excited to have Sarah leading the board of directors for the next year. She brings years of service to the college — and a lifelong love for agriculture — to this role and will have a unique perspective on the alumni association’s mission to connect, engage and celebrate.”
To learn more and get involved with the CAES Alumni Association, visit caes.uga.edu/alumni.