Q&A with Gwen Funk

Gwen is a field specialist in horticulture based in Nodaway County.

Gwen Funk

What do you do in your current role with the University of Missouri?

I am a field specialist in horticulture based in Nodaway County. I serve Nodaway, Atchison, Holt, Andrew, Worth, Gentry, Dekalb counties, and others as needed. I am responsible for planning, implementing, and evaluating educational programs emphasizing horticulture, including home gardening, commercial horticulture, environmental stewardship, landscape development, and food safety.  Also supported are soil testing and integrated pest management.

How long have you worked in this position?

I started working at Extension on July 10, 2023.

What is your hometown, place of high school graduation, and degrees/universities?

I grew up on a small farm in Buchanan County, Mo. I received my B.S. degree in biology with a minor in chemistry from Missouri Western State University. I then went to Missouri State University and got my M.S. degree in biology, emphasizing plant ecology and population genetics. Before joining MU Extension, I worked as a high school science teacher, a forest restoration specialist with Missouri Department of Conservation, a seasonal naturalist with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. I also have an Ed. Specialist degree from NWMSU focusing on education leadership and curriculum development.

What is your favorite part about the work you do?

I am excited to help distribute research-based information that will ultimately help support the economy and improve the quality of life in rural northwest Missouri. I look forward to meeting the people living in northwest Missouri and I hope I can help them reach their gardening/horticultural goals. My passion is supporting native plants, but I am not a purist. I enjoy meeting new people, hearing their stories, and helping them solve their problems.

How are you helping MU A&E Extension reach our #2XAg 2030 goal?

I will use my knowledge of plant science to provide support for growers/producers of specialty crops that help build and maintain local farmers markets and community gardens and other commodity entities. These programs help local economies, provide alternate income streams for farmers, and provide local food security.

What is something your co-workers may not know about you?

I like to extract natural dyes from plants to dye different types of natural fiber (wool, silk, cotton, linen). I’m fascinated with the chemistry of it.