After more than 30 years working with tree fruit growers as an extension specialist in the Columbia Basin, Karen Lewis is taking on a new leadership role with Washington State University Extension this month.

Karen Lewis
Karen Lewis

As director of the Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Program Unit, Lewis will work to support over 100 faculty and staff covering a wide variety of industries, including food and fuel crops, forestry, animal agriculture, water resources, environmental stewardship, farm and rangeland management, pest management, urban horticulture, local food systems and regional food policy, according to a news release from WSU. 

“Professor Lewis is deeply versed in delivering the industry-supporting outreach and education that’s at the heart of the Extension experience,” said André-Denis Wright, dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, in the release. “She is ideally skilled to lead the Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Unit, and to foster its land-grant heritage.”

Extension Director Vicki McCracken praised Lewis’s leadership and her experience bringing growers, community members and scientists together to solve problems. 

In addition to the new administrative role, Lewis will continue to be involved in some of her tree fruit extension work, primarily focused on apple crop load management and WA 38 production, she told Good Fruit Grower. She will continue to work from her office in Moses Lake. 

Lewis’s new role comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has created both challenges and opportunities for WSU Extension, she said in the release. 

“Conducting research in the field and the lab and delivering field-based events have been challenging,” Lewis said. “The pandemic has exposed gaps in Extension programs, and at the same time has helped us identify new stakeholder groups.”

Lewis replaces Todd Murray, who took a leadership role with WSU’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center earlier this year. She took on the ANR role on Nov. 1 and said she is eager to support extension faculty to work collaboratively, across many disciplines and departments, to solve problems. 

“Faculty and staff in ANR and across all Extension programs work to fulfill WSU’s land-grant mission,” Lewis said in the release. “ANR conducts important applied research and outreach that result in practice change and increased sustainability.”

—by Kate Prengaman