In celebration of National Pollinator Month, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is highlighting NIFA-funded Extension Specialist Amy Vu.
Vu serves as a state specialized program Extension agent for the University of Florida (UF) and works in the Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory.
Tell us your journey and how your interest in agriculture developed.
I was born and raised in Overland Park, Kansas, an urban area in Kansas. I had almost no exposure to agriculture or knowledge about food systems and where our food came from. When I started my undergraduate degree at Kansas State University, I spent a semester abroad to study in Ecuador. There I was surrounded by agriculture and introduced to the freshest fruit smoothies. My experience in Ecuador shaped my interest of food systems, where I wanted to learn more about local systems while also wanting to work with farmers to educate them on how to grow their own crops. I completed my undergraduate degree in agronomy with an emphasis on soils and environmental science and attended Virginia Tech to earn my master’s degree in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education (formerly the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education). I started my Extension career as the UF/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Orange County Urban Horticulture and Master Gardener Volunteer coordinator. Since then, I have transitioned and am an apiculture Extension specialist for the University of Florida.
Describe your involvement with NIFA and your role with UF’s Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab.
I am a co-private investigator on a project with colleagues at Michigan State University and Texas A&M on a recently funded USDA NIFA grant called “Taking the Sting Out of Honey Bee Medicine: Training and Tools for Veterinarians to Increase Access to Care for Beekeepers.” The project is expected to begin in September 2022, and we aim to educate veterinarians in honey bee medicine by creating online courses and hands-on trainings for current veterinarians and veterinary medicine students. I have other projects in the works specifically for military veterans, teachers, women and underrepresented minorities in beekeeping and hope to implement these projects through NIFA in the future.
What advice to you have for current students who may be interested in pursuing a similar career path?
My advice is to expose yourself to Extension as much as possible, whether that means visiting your local Extension office, learning more about what a Land-grant University means, shadowing, interning, or working at a local Extension office, collaborating, and networking with stakeholders, and finding a great Extension mentor. Take your time understanding the needs in your community and understanding Extension as a career (program development, evaluation, and more). My mentors have helped shaped who I am today in my career, and I am fortunate to feel like they have all set me up for success.
Anything else you would like to add?
Have fun in your Extension career! Work hard and have fun doing it. Not everything is always rainbows and butterflies, but Extension can be the most rewarding career.
Photo: University of Florida’s Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory offers train-the-trainer events to equip county agents with the knowledge and materials they need to implement their own programs. Image provided by Amy Vu.