Distinguished Alumna

Cynthia Connolly, PhD '71

President, Monticello Vineyards & Winery Inc.

A graduate of Barry College for Women, Cynthia owns and operates Ladybird Organics, a 50-acre organic farm in North Florida, which specializes in viticulture and vermiculture and is home to Monticello Vineyards & Winery, a Florida Farm Winery. She founded her farm in 1989 with a vision of producing diversified, organic food in a sustainable system. Her worm operation provides the rich humus - worm castings - that supports all plants grown on the farm. While various organic fruits and nuts are produced in smaller quantities, the vineyard produces the main crop, Muscadine grapes, used in winemaking.

After pursuing a master’s degree from Florida State University and an additional bachelor’s degree from Florida A & M University, in 1980 Cynthia became the first woman in the country to receive a Ph.D. in Agricultural Education and Agricultural Engineering from Iowa State University. Her doctoral research, funded by the World Food Institute, was conducted in the Sudan - the largest country in Africa and one of the poorest countries in the world - where she taught food production at Ahfad University College for Women from 1977-78.

Before beginning her farm operation and winery, Cynthia worked internationally for USDA’s International Training Division, the UN Development Program, the UN Food & Agriculture Organization, the US Agency for International Development, and the International Center of Tropical Agriculture, serving in South America, Europe, and several African countries. Her work in agriculture and winemaking has been recognized in a number of publications, and her own extensive published works are all global initiatives aimed at bettering community and the earth.

She is an avid swimmer, having competed on teams throughout her high school and college years. Cynthia also swam internationally while studying in Switzerland on Barry’s semester abroad program, and while working for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Italy. She also shared her love of the sport coaching competitive swimming while working in Colombia.