There is a new face at the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach office of Jasper County who is ready to assist the community with horticulture and local food questions and concerns.
John Krzton-Presson was hired this month as a Horticulture and Local Foods Program Coordinator and is already making connections with locals. Though, not a native to Iowa, Presson is passionate about supporting local farmers.
Presson grew up in rural Kentucky where his family did a little bit of vegetable production. Presson attended the University of Kentucky where he studied biology and that was where he started getting involved with horticulture.
“Upon graduating I went to Texas and worked for an independent school district and taught science to fifth graders for four years and that’s where I met my wife,” Presson said. “I knew I wanted to go to school to study vegetable production and there was a couple different schools I was looking at and Iowa State University was one of them.”
Presson said it become clear that Iowa State was the right choice because his wife is from Iowa and the university had an opportunity for him right away.
“There I did a project on studying commercial vegetable production as well as cover crops, soil health and food safety and I earned a masters in horticulture and sustainable agriculture and I graduated in early May,” Presson said.
Presson said his position at the extension office was a new and added position and is an overlap between two previous positions.
“I’ve been responding to calls about lawns, garden and tree issues and I do home visits where I answer the question directly or work with a specialist on campus who can answer it,” Presson said.
“As a food coordinator, I promote local and regional foods inside Jasper County and surrounding areas and try to make connections with consumers who are interested in getting local food and finding different producers and making those connections.”
Presson said he was impressed by the number of produce farmers in Newton and Jasper County.
“There are fruit and vegetable farms that have been around for 15 to 20 years and been in business selling fruits and vegetables — that was really inspiring to see that,” Presson said. “There are people making a living doing it. If they’ve been in business that long, then they must be doing something right.”
Presson said he looks forward to working with all age groups and his past experiences have prepared him to communicate effectively.
“I think I’m really looking forward to being able to help people in the community and I’m looking forward to new challenges every day, even in the last couple days that I’ve been here, every day has been different and I’m really looking forward to that high energy work place,” Presson said.
Presson said even within the first four days of his position he went on a home visit and collected some tree samples from a resident. The samples will be sent off to a specialist and then he will recommend some practical solutions if there is a problem.
“I really want to emphasis that my pay is coming from taxpayer dollars and I am a public servant in a way, and I just don’t want people to hesitate and reach out for anything that is related to horticulture or local foods, that’s what I’m here for,” Presson said.
ISU Regional Extension Director Nathan Crane said residents of Newton and Jasper County have a pretty strong background in taking an interest in horticulture programs and having those types of needs.
“When we went through as an extension council and looked through the needs, that was a programming that came to the top of the list,” Crane said. “It’s a pretty popular thing with the local foods and regional foods and people wanting to grow and market their produce locally.”
Crane said that’s where Presson’s position comes in.
John has a background in working with youth and adults and a verse group of people, he has a very strong educational background and he is very approachable,” Crane said.
Presson said he is looking forward to making connections in a small community.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how local foods can impact a smaller town. Newton is smaller than some of the towns I’ve worked in,” Presson said. “I think in a smaller town it will have the chance to make a big impact and be meaningful.”
Contact Kayla Langmaid at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or firstname.lastname@example.org