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Extension Horticulture Specialist Receives National Recognition

By Ryan McGeeney

The American Society for Horticulture Science has recognized a Cooperative Extension Service horticulturist for her extensive public education and outreach efforts.


NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED — Amanda McWhirt, extension fruit and vegetable horticulture specialist for the Division of Agriculture, will receive the American Society for Horticulture Science's ear;y career award for extension and public outreach. (Division of Agriculture photo.)

Amanda McWhirt, extension fruit and vegetable horticulture specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, will receive the ASHS Professional Early Career Award, specifically for “excellence and outstanding contributions to extension or outreach of horticulture science or horticulture-related disciplines.”

There are four categories for the early career award. In addition to the award for extension and outreach, three other individuals are recognized each year for academic instruction, commercial and professional consulting and research and innovation, all within the field of horticulture. Nominees are only considered for seven years after completion of their final academic degrees.

McWhirt joined the Division of Agriculture in 2016 as an assistant professor and extension specialist, shortly after completing her Ph.D. in crop science and agroecology at North Carolina State University. In addition to her outreach and education efforts across Arkansas, she conducts fruit and vegetable research at the Division of Agriculture’s Fruit Research Station in Clarksville, the Vegetable Research Station in Kibler and elsewhere.

“I was aware that I’d been nominated, but it wasn’t really on my radar,” McWhirt said. “Of course, it’s always nice to be recognized by your peers.”

McWhirt was nominated by Wayne Mackay, chair of the Division of Agriculture’s Horticulture Department. In his nominating letter to ASHS, Mackay described McWhirt’s work with the Cooperative Extension Service as “extremely impactful,” detailing her efforts in creating more than 22 webinars and 75 online videos that have been viewed more than 100,000 times. She has also trained “hundreds of agents and thousands of growers” in strawberry, blueberry and blackberry production.

“Dr. McWhirt is active in traditional written and in-person extension activities,” Mackay wrote. “Since 2016, she has authored or co-authored 23 extension publications, given more than 120 extension talks, and developed over 30 in-person workshops that have impacted more than 3,000 growers on a state, regional and national level. She is also the state coordinator for the Arkansas SARE Program.”

SARE stands for Sustainable Agriculture Research Education.

“Dr. Amanda McWhirt truly embodies the best of ASHS and deserves recognition for her excellence and outstanding contributions to extension and outreach in horticulture,” Mackay said.

McWhirt will receive the award at the ASHS national meeting in August. The meeting will be held in Orlando, Florida.

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