About Connie Fisk: I am originally from Oregon and completed my Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Food Management and my Master of Science in Food Science & Technology and Horticulture at Oregon State University. I was drawn to Extension while taking a special topics course there where we learned about the roles of Extension professionals across the state. After completing my degree I accepted an Extension position with the Department of Horticultural Science at NC State University where I provided statewide training and support for Extension agents and growers of muscadine grapes produced for fresh market, wine, juice and value-added products. I completed my Ph.D. in Horticultural Science at NC State University in the fall of 2013.
I have always been interested in fruit and vegetable production and exploring how management practices affect plant growth, yield and quality. In high school my FFA project was a garden. In college I spent my summers interning with fruit and vegetable processors and at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center. For my master’s thesis I investigated harvest maturity, edible coatings and sensory qualities of hardy kiwifruit (Actinidia arguta ‘Ananasnaya’). For my doctoral dissertation I studied the effects of weed management and irrigation on peach tree growth, fruit yield, size, quality, and insect damage, and soil ecology.
What is your position at UNL? I teach youth and adults how to grow, raise and market food crops and animals in the greater Omaha area as UNL's Urban Ag Program Coordinator. I cover a variety of interrelated topics including horticulture, organic food production, good agricultural practices and food safety, value-added food processing, small-scale animal production, entrepreneurship and agricultural literacy to increase the number and volume of local foods sold in the region.
What drew you to UNL? I was drawn to UNL by the opportunity to work with commercial fruit and vegetable growers, to help them solve problems in the field, to conduct on-farm research to create production recommendations ideally suited for local growing and marketing conditions, and to share my enthusiasm for horticulture in public presentations. Since I joined UNL in March I’ve enjoyed getting to know local producers, participating in 4-H field days and judging, working with the Omaha Home for Boys and NCTA to develop a market garden and coursework in urban agriculture and cultivating a social media presence for sharing food production information on the Web.
What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most? My favorite part of working in an educational setting is group discussion where you get to see a student’s “aha moment.” I love teaching topics that students are passionate about, where they see connections between their prior knowledge and experience and the topic presented in readings and lectures; and they are able to think deeply about the topic and come up with great questions, questions I don’t always have the answer to but we can explore together.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? I consider my bachelor’s degree to be my greatest achievement. I come from a small, rural community in central Oregon and was the first person in my family to attend college. On top of that, I was a single teen parent. I fought really hard to complete my degree, working part time on campus and taking extra credits every semester to graduate early. I believe that anybody can attain a college education if they want it bad enough to fight for it.
What is something that most people don’t know about you? Something that most people don’t know about me is that in the year between my B.S. and M.S. coursework I was the Quality Assurance Lab Supervisor for a dairy processing plant in Portland, OR. I know how to run all the necessary physical and microbiological tests on raw and processed milk, milkshake mix, buttermilk, yogurt, ice cream, and cottage cheese, how to conduct environmental sampling of a dairy plant and how to monitor processing for HACCP recordkeeping.
What is your life like outside of work? I live in rural Cass County with my husband and our two youngest children. We raise Nigerian dwarf dairy goats and a handful of chickens for eggs and enjoy getting out to experience nature in southeast Nebraska. We’re also enjoying the availability of locally produced meat, milk and produce as I love to cook and they love to eat. Our free time quickly gets filled with church responsibilities and driving kids to Boy Scouts, 4-H, soccer, band and piano practice. We rarely sit still so email is the best way to reach me because I get it on my cell phone.