Agriculture

Karen Cox Karen Cox

WVU Extension Agent –
Agriculture & Natural Resources,
Ohio County

For Karen Cox, West Virginia University Extension Service Agricultural and Natural Resources agent for Ohio County, using the earth sustainably for vitality, utility and profitability isn’t a mystery.

Cox teaches people of her region how to balance utilization and conservation to be productive, yet responsible stewards of their land.

“I’ve held prior positions that hinted at the essence of Extension—translating scientific research into practical advice for people who need it,” said Cox. “When I found out that it was an actual ‘thing,’ I knew it was an opportunity to combine all the things I love to do.”

Instead of survival of the fittest, Cox ensures what she calls “survival of the farmer.”

She markets simple backyard growing to a younger audience through programs that play on pop culture trends. Her favorite “pop” program encourages people to learn necessary skills to grow their own food in a fantasy world overrun by zombies.

The scenario may be unrealistic, but the lessons learned are practical, basic gardening knowledge.

“Once you get past the fear of starting to grow a plant, beautiful things begin to blossom,” said Cox. “You realize you have the ability, backed by WVU Extension’s science, to grow food. This new-found confidence often ignites a passion that sparks the next generation of Master Gardeners and market producers.”

Encouraging people to grow their own food is a vital concept for Cox, one that she sees becoming increasingly important for not only the backyard gardener, but for also reviving the region’s rich tradition of production.

Cox said consumers want to make educated food sourcing choices but often lack the know-how. This spurred interest in local market production, which Cox pairs with “food hubs.” The hubs pair local farmers wanting to supply product across a regional market area with consumers looking for locally grown goods. It’s a resurging trend across the region.

“Our situation in Ohio County is unique,” said Cox. “We have an incredible opportunity for collaboration between various states and local governments to benefit our producers. That is where true survival for our local farmers and lifeblood for our economy stems from.”

In addition to hands on programming, Cox delivers “Ag Minutes” through the local radio station. Ag Minutes provide a quick, one minute overview and tips of various agricultural subjects.

Cox earned her bachelor’s in forest resources management from WVU and master’s in forestry from Purdue University.

To reach Cox, email her at karen.cox@mail.wvu.edu, or call 304-234-3673.