WESLACO, RGV – If the top minds at Texas A&M take care of the Rio Grande Valley’s crops and children, the end result will reflect on Texas and the state will be more dominant because of it, according to Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp.

Making his third visit to the Valley within a month, Sharp joined top brass from the Texas A&M University System who all gathered to celebrate the opening of the renamed Rio Grande Valley Vegetable Research and Education building in Weslaco on Oct. 15.

The opening officially kicks off the revitalization of vegetable research and education programs in Texas, according to leaders with the system.

“Welcome to our next effort to completely take over the Rio Grande Valley,” Sharp said half-jokingly to attendees at the opening. What happens in the Valley, reflects on the rest of the state, he said.

“There is a reason for all these investments in the Rio Grande Valley over the last three years, and that is that as goes the Rio Grande Valley will go the State of Texas, mark my words,” he said.  “The presence in agriculture in the Rio Grande Valley has been a good one, and what will happen here at this facility is that the best research and education building becomes the latest chapter in that great history.”

Sharp was joined by a Who’s Who of guests at the event. Attendees included U.S. Reps. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville; and state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville.

Speakers at the event from the Texas A&M University System included Craig Nessler, director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research; Doug Steele, director of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service; Steve Tallant, president of Texas A&M University-Kingsville ; and Juan Landivar, resident director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Weslaco.

“Together, we will help make South Texas the greatest place on Earth,” said Tallant.

“We are here to celebrate a building, but it’s more than a building. I want to talk about what it means to us at Texas A&M-Kingsville. It means partnerships and collaboration,” Tallant said. “The essence of the A&M System is developing those partnerships and collaborations so our whole system works together so we can provide better education, research and service for all the citizens of the State of Texas.”

The opening of the new facility was the third major announcement by the Texas A&M University System within the last month. In September, Sharp visited McAllen to provide details on a new Texas A&M University campus there. He then visited Weslaco to launch Texas A&M AgriLife’s Healthy South Texas Initiative.

Thursday’s visit was two-fold. Not only did A&M dedicate the new Rio Grande Valley Vegetable Research and Education Building, but it also unveiled AgriLife’s new Texas Vegetable Strategic Plan.

“Our strategic plan as an agency has been developed constantly with the input of the industry to make sure we are doing things that are relevant,” said AgriLife Research director Nessler. “We will be developing unique vegetables, linking quality and growing location. One of the things we recognize is that you have to have material that is adapted for where you are growing it. We are going to work on that.

“We will continue to work on health promoting properties,” Nessler added. “Everybody knows that fruits and vegetables are good for you, and our vegetable fruit improvement center has been looking at exactly what is in those vegetables that makes them good for you. They will work with our breeders to make more of that available.”