Jennifer Miller grew up less than 30 minutes away from the Hundley-Whaley Research Center, and has worked as a research specialist at the Center for the past four years.
Miller, who hails from King City, has moved into a new role at Hundley-Whaley – the superintendent of the Research Center.
Bruce Burdick, who had been the superintendent at Hundley-Whaley since 2003, retired in December.
“We appreciate the hard work and dedication that Bruce provided for the Hundley-Whaley Research Center,” said Marc Linit, director of the Agricultural Experiment Station. “We’re excited to have Jennifer fill the superintendent role, as she brings important agricultural experience from northwest Missouri. She has a great relationship with the farmers and landowners from the area and we look forward to her continuing to build on those relationships.”
Miller attended kindergarten in King City before moving with her family to Medicine Bow, Wyoming, where she attended first through 11th grade. She moved back to King City during her senior year of high school and earned her high school diploma there.
“Most people would have been uncomfortable with that move, but I had so much family in King City it was like coming home,” Miller said.
Miller’s great-grandfather and grandfather were both row crop farmers. Her dad farmed as well, growing timber ginseng.
“My dad is a 1960s rebel type,” Miller said. “He was always looking to try something different. He had some timber acreage, did some research and decided that ginseng was going to be his cash crop.”
Miller inherited her family’s love for growing and had plans to eventually own and operate her own greenhouse, so she headed to DeVry University in Kansas City after high school graduation. She earned a business degree and gained valuable accounting experience during her time there.
“Since my goal was to own a greenhouse, I really thought I would just need experience with entrepreneurship, so I focused on getting a business degree,” Miller said.
While attending college, Miller also helped with the family ginseng farm.
“We had really big plans for that crop,” Miller said. “Unfortunately, the entire timber crop died from fusarium root rot. We tried to save the crop, but without being able to fumigate, failed. The matured ginseng crop was already scheduled to be sold and there was no way to save it. We were devastated.”
Without greenhouse startup funds, Miller’s career path took a new turn. With a continued passion for agronomy and research, Miller attended Northwest Missouri State University and earned her master’s degree in agriculture, with a focus in agronomy. During her time with seed companies, she worked very closely with farmers.
“I knew my product and really enjoyed talking with farmers,” Miller said. “An entire day might be spent with one producer, traveling from field to field, crop scouting and discussing integrated pest management – basically being an agronomist but not selling.”
The Hundley-Whaley Research Center was in need of a research specialist four years ago – and Miller found a perfect fit.
“Part of the CAFNR mission is to research, teach and engage,” Miller said. “That was right up my alley.”
As superintendent of the Hundley-Whaley Research Center, Miller is excited to continue the stellar research that has taken place at the Center for years. She is also focused on bringing new projects to Hundley-Whaley.
“The corn and soybean row crop research is vital for us at Hundley-Whaley and northwest Missouri, and that research will continue,” Miller said. “I also want to include other niches, such as beekeeping or mushroom cultivation, and be open to research on other important crops and farming practices. Our farmers need research on new possibilities – what works and what doesn’t. We want to bring that research to their front door.
“To have the four years of experience at the Center is invaluable. Bruce Burdick and Don Null, past superintendents, have laid out the path for us to continue. I am very proud to be part of the amazing and important research accomplished at our MU Research Centers. We are here first for research, and then to inform and engage. That is where my heart is.”