Agroecology MS; Environment & Resources MS
Ohio State University
What is your research about and what is the impact? How does it relate to the horticulture industry, what is the goal?
My research is on the history of organic/sustainable agriculture in the midwestern and northeastern United States. Although organic agriculture is becoming increasingly popular in the horticulture industry, few people know much about its history. My goal is to preserve this history and make it available to the general public to better inform future discussions about agricultural sustainability.
Why did you choose UW-Madison? What is your favorite part of Madison?
I chose UW-Madison because the interdisciplinary program offered by the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies was flexible enough to allow me to do the research I wanted to do. I also needed an advisor who was willing to work with me and had a lab that welcomed a diverse range of students, and Julie Dawson has been a perfect fit for me.
My favorite part of Madison is living in Eagle Heights, where I have a plot in the community garden and can go hiking in the Lakeshore Preserve every day. I’m a country girl, and all the natural areas make living in a city bearable. I love the fact that the university is right on Lake Mendota! And it’s easy to get fresh, local produce at the farmers markets and the Willy Street Co-op. I also love how easy and safe it is to bike around Madison, with bike paths and bike lanes on almost every major road; I ride my bike everywhere and don’t even need to get a car.
What was the path you took to work in plant sciences? And then what advice would you give to your younger self to get into the field/career you are in today?
I’ve always been interested in science, and when I was a teenager my family moved out to a small farm in the country and I got really interested in sustainable agriculture. I wanted to go to college and study agriculture but didn’t like the thought of dissecting animals, plus I really love to study plants and grow vegetables, so I decided to get my undergraduate degree in plant and soil science. I had a great advisor who gave me the freedom to do a historical research project, which eventually led to me writing a book on the history of Malabar Farm in Ohio and then studying the history of organic/sustainable agriculture as a graduate student.
If I were to give any advice to my younger self, it would be to not be afraid to reach out to experts and ask them questions–and that it’s okay to take a nontraditional college and career path to do what I love to do. And for getting into graduate school, I would say, “Don’t settle for second-best–keep looking until you find the program and advisor that will let you do what you want to do.”