In the Weeds with Olivia Saunders

Olivia Saunders

UNH Extension staff are in the field every day, working with Granite State residents to make life better in New Hampshire. Because they’re so often on the go, getting to know our specialists and educators can be challenging. That’s why we’ve created In the Weeds, an ongoing series of interviews with Extension staff. Get to know the people behind our programs, discover new opportunities and pick up a few music recommendations along the way.

Name: Olivia Saunders

Title: Fruit & Vegetable Production Field Specialist

Start date at Extension: January 2013

Why did you choose your field of work?

I was and still am drawn to agriculture because I believe many of our environmental challenges are solved by good agricultural practices. Being outdoors, being a steward of the land, being rooted to the earth and following the seasons are all parts of my work that appeal to me on a fundamental level.

If you were told that you could only have one tool to do your job at Extension, what would it be?

Wow that’s a tough one because every day is different and I use a wide array of tools from technology to magnifying glasses to soil probes on any given day. But I never leave the office without a copy of the book Weeds of the Northeast; I actually have two copies. One stays in my car so I have it with me at all times.

Describe a memorable experience you have had in your career as an educator.

I was awarded a fellowship with the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program in 2016 and was able to learn about sustainable agriculture across the country through four, week-long intensive tours. It was an enriching experience for me to visit so many farms and learn about agriculture systems in different parts of the U.S. I also enjoyed meeting other Extension agents and learning about the Extension programs in other states.

If you had to make a playlist to accompany your program, what five songs would you add first?

  • "Poor Old Dirt Farmer" by Levon Helm
  • "Hold On" by Alabama Shakes
  • "Littlebird" by Ghost of Paul Revere (my favorite Maine boys!)
  • "Cornbread and Butterbeans" by Carolina Chocolate Drops
  • "Resilient" by Rising Appalachia

If there was one thing you would want everyone to know about your field of expertise, what would it be?

Farming is a lot more challenging than most people think. There is a lot you need to know before you can start a successful operation.

How can people get in touch with you or learn more about your programming?

All my events are on our webpage. But if you have ideas or see a need, shoot me an e-mail and let's talk!

Do you have any events coming up that you are excited about?

I always enjoy the New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference that happens every other year. It’s a bit of a reunion for me and I get to reconnect with farming and Extension friends from all over New England and New York. Plus the educational program is fantastic every year. We are in the planning stages for December 2019.

What Extension program, outside of your program area, would we most likely find you at in your free time?

I love to cook and hike, so probably a Nutrition Connections program or something with Nature Groupie.