Karen Mitchell’s passion for plants and the environment permeates into every part of her life, professionally and personally.
“I always had an interest in the ecosystem, how things interact and how food is made. As a child, I would refer to my hamburgers as cow burgers because I thought you should recognize that it’s not made of ham or from a pig,” said Mitchell.
Her curiosity led her to 18 and counting years of learning at Purdue University beginning as an undergraduate studying horticulture. She pursued her master’s in botany and plant pathology and then served as the agriculture and natural resources educator for the Tippecanoe County Extension office for six years.
“As a student, I was outspoken about the value of plants in our environment, leading me to think about a career in extension. Being a county extension educator provided me the opportunity to keep learning and then share that knowledge directly with county residents.”
Recently appointed as the consumer horticulture Extension specialist in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Mitchell views this career change as an exciting opportunity to share her love and knowledge with others. She intends to work with colleagues and industry members to create an advisory committee, perform a needs assessment and keep Purdue Extension as a leader in horticulture resources and research.
“At the end of the day, I want to show people the value of plants and the environment. Gardening isn’t always easy and many times we work against nature instead of alongside nature. My goal is to help homeowners and gardeners understand the entire lifecycle of plants and pests, including weeds, so they can make sustainable decisions.”
In addition to answering questions from gardeners, Mitchell envisions making Extension’s horticulture resources accessible for all. She hopes to update materials to be more mobile friendly and translate them into other languages, including Spanish. She’s also interested in connecting with new homeowners who are learning how to take care of their lawns and gardens for the first time.
“Purdue Extension is about making local connections and working with my community to make it a better place. As the horticulture sector sees a mindset change to working with nature instead of against it, I’m here to help Hoosiers navigate climate change, erratic weather, invasive species and more in their backyards.”