Q&A with Justin Keay

Justin Keay is a field specialist in horticulture based in Pike County

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

A man leans down in some row crops.

As a field specialist in horticulture, I work with specialty crop producers and home gardeners to help folks grow more produce while protecting our state’s natural resources. In my work with specialty crop producers, I help folks with fertility, pest, and irrigation management, as well as marketing and evaluating new crops and enterprises for their farms. I get to serve as a resource for growers in my region, helping to connect them with science-backed information that helps them make informed management decisions on their farms. With projects like our various commercial horticulture webinar series and our Missouri Produce Growers Video Newsletter, I get to connect with a statewide audience and build a following for the great programming we get to offer with MU Extension.

How long have you worked in this position?

I have worked with MU Extension since November of 2018.

What is your favorite part about the work you do?

My favorite part of my job is developing long-lasting relationships with specialty crop producers, and being able to serve as a first point of contact when producers are seeking reliable information to help them solve problems on their farms.

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

As part of our commercial horticulture working group, I get to help new and existing specialty crop producers enhance the profitability and sustainability of their operations. By educating producers on the importance of integrated pest management (IPM), I am able to help producers control input costs while protecting our state’s natural resources. Specialty crops can have an outsized economic impact on a per-acre basis. My work focuses on growing this economic impact by supporting growers with my knowledge and MU Extension resources and connecting growers to cost share and grant programs from the USDA and MDA.

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

My first plan after my undergrad program was to go to law school, but then plants got the best of me!

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

I was born and raised in north St. Louis County. My family moved from Ferguson to Florissant when I was in middle school, and I graduated from McCluer North High School. I attended St. Louis Community College before transferring and graduating from Washington University, with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies. I ran a small market vegetable farm in Florissant before enrolling in an M.S. program at Lincoln University in integrated agricultural systems, where I studied under State IPM Coordinator Dr. Jaime Pinero.