"Agriculture isn’t just a job for University of Massachusetts Extension Vegetable Specialist Katie Campbell-Nelson, it’s a part of who she is. 'No matter where I went, helping people farm was always a productive and important way to live, despite whatever else was going on.' This all-encompassing outlook on the importance of agriculture blossomed early in childhood, where being part of the community growing up in rural Indonesia also meant farming. Today, Katie coordinates a team of educators with specialties in integrated pest management, nutrient management and food safety to better extend research and education to the public.” (from USDA’s Northeast Climate Hub Newsletter, October 2016)
Campbell-Nelson has worked at her alma mater since graduating from UMass Amherst in 2009 with a Master’s degree in plant and soil science. Campbell-Nelson’s focus at that time was on ammonia volatility from cow manure. Since graduating, she has worked as a research assistant in turf pathology, an adjunct instructor for the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, and now as an extension educator and team leader for the UMass Extension Vegetable Program.
Travelling across the Commonwealth, and New England, is a big part of her work life. During the summer, Campbell-Nelson can be found on farms across Massachusetts providing direct in-field IPM training and other support in production practices to farmers. She also collects data from on-farm research trials. Several times during the season, UMass Extension hosts twilight meetings on farms, inviting farmers to share their innovative practices as well as inviting expertise from outside the region. Such gatherings address important topics such as food safety, new varieties, soil health, or tools for diversified farms and she can often be found leading these meetings. During the winter, Campbell-Nelson makes presentations around New England. Tongue-in-cheek, she said that one day she hopes to travel only for a relaxing vacation.
She is especially proud of the Hot Water Seed Treatment service UMass Extension offers, and the excellent reputation that their monthly publication, Vegetable Notes, enjoys. The feedback received from their readers is that they are appreciative of the up-to-date, practical and science-based information that is disseminated.
According to Campbell–Nelson, it can be challenging to work effectively with regulatory changes in Massachusetts such as the Nutrient Management Regulations 330CMR. She notes that she finds it rewarding to develop relationships between and among those involved with regulations, science, and the state’s growers.
Campbell-Nelson is dedicated to her work. She is a member of the Mass. Farm Bureau, Northeast Organic Farming Association, New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Association and is state coordinator for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. “It is important to me to maintain these professional memberships in order to stay in touch with what our vegetable growers across the state need from us.” Her work ethic, professionalism and passion for the job make a great foundation for her effectiveness in Extension.