Karlee Pruitt

Bergman

Agriculture has been a part of Karlee Pruitt’s life since she was a little girl.

Her father was the agriculture instructor at Bergman High School and her grandfather owned and operated a vegetable production garden.

It wasn’t until she learned more about agriculture communications and advocacy that her real passion for agriculture developed.

“I started to realize how the entire industry as a whole is under represented and needs more educators and communicators to teach those who do not have a background or understanding of agriculture,” she said.

Pruitt said she chose to attend classes at Northark because she wanted to start college in a smaller environment.

“I wanted to take classes with the largest amount of students being 40, not 400,” she said. “My support system at Northark was incredible, and I’m so glad I can still call any of my instructors and ask for advice.”

Pruitt said Northark’s agriculture program is impressive and credits agriculture instructors Matt Shekels and Clyde Fenton with expanding her knowledge in agricultural communications and horticulture.

“Thanks to Northark’s agriculture program and the opportunities I had there, I was able to meet Elena Garcia in the horticulture department at the University of Arkansas,” she said. “After meeting with her a few times and having her examine the work I did at Northark, she offered me a position to work for her.”

Pruitt spent the summer in Ardmore, Okla., working for the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, a non-profit organization that does research, consultation, technology development and philanthropy. Pruitt said the Foundation selected her because of her experience with high-tunnels. As a Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture, she went on consultation visits with a mentor, spent one-on-one time with the director of communications learning about communication as a whole and helped manage a container research study.

“My main project was a container research study,” she said. “In this study I had 54 tomato plants in three different types of containers (30-gallon mineral bucket / 20-gallon fabric smart pot / 5-gallon paint bucket) with two different irrigation methods (surface watering/sub-surface watering). I had to take data on the temperature of the soil, amount of water applied to each bucket, and the yield/yield weights. My goal was to determine which type of container and irrigation method had the most success. At the end of the summer I was able to determine that the 20-gallon fabric smart pot that was sub-surface irrigated was the best option. They plan to do this study for two more years to find more definite results.”

As a result of her work with the container study, Pruitt was asked to present the results at the Horticulture Industries Show in Tulsa, Okla.

Pruitt is currently working toward her bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas. She said she is considering getting a master’s degree and possible a doctorate.

“I would love to be an instructor or researcher for an institution,” she said. “I want to utilize my education, knowledge and passion for agriculture to teach others about agriculture and create a path for others to do down, just like my instructors and mentors at Northark, U of A and the Noble Foundation.”

Pruitt said her advice to students is to be open to new opportunities that arise, even if you don’t have a lot of experience in a particular field.

“I suggest finding your passions and letting those who can help you know, so they can set you on the right track,” she said.