Q&A with Joni Harper

Joni is a county engagement specialist in agriculture and environment

What do you do in your current role with the University of Missour

I am a county engagement specialist in agriculture and environment. I am involved in several MU Extension programs, like Heroes to Hives, for which I am the co-PI and one of the lead team members. I’m trained in delivering the Q.P.R. suicide prevention training and teach Weathering the Storm, a farmer/rancher stress program. I’m also working with the Missouri Vegetable Growers Association on the watermelon research specialty block grant, and I coordinate Master Gardener/Master Naturalist programs in three counties.

Two people in white beekeeping suits handle some bees

How long have you worked in this position?

I have been working for MU Extension for over 15 years and have always been located in Versailles (Morgan County). I have gone through some title changes, but I have always been part of the agriculture side of MU Extension.

What is your favorite part about the work you do?

I really enjoy working with the farmers and landowners on improving their operation, natural resources and way of life. Getting to see how the programs I teach and the resources I provide have improved/impacted the lives of the people I serve is the reason I do what I do.

A woman stands in a green field collecting soil samples.

How are you helping MU A&E Extension reach our #2xAg2030 goal?  

Currently, I am a part of several teams of Extension specialists that are working on improving the health and well-being of our rural communities, increasing the skills of beginning farmers and ranchers, looking for ways to increase watermelon production and profitability in Missouri, and working with our Veterans to become successful beekeepers through the Heroes to Hives program.

 What is something your CAFNR and MU Extension teammates may not know about you?

I love to travel and see different parts of the world. This all started when I was 16 and traveled with my high school French club to Italy, France and England. Also, I am a recent breast cancer survivor!

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

I was born and raised in Rushville, Illinois. I graduated high school from Rushville (go Rockets!). I then traveled all the way to University of Arkansas in Fayetteville where I earned my bachelor’s degree in crop management and master’s in crop, soil and environmental science with an emphasis in soil fertility.