New faculty profile: Julie Dawson


Julie Dawson joined CALS in July as an assistant professor in the Department of Horticulture and a UW-Extension urban agriculture specialist.

Briefly describe your career path—up to this point.
I did my undergraduate work in Plant Sciences at Cornell University, and did research with faculty in the plant breeding department. After graduating, I spent a year in Washington, DC working on policy related to sustainable agriculture and research first for ASA-CSSA-SSSA and then for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.  I did my PhD at Washington State University, working on organic and participatory wheat breeding.  I went to France as a postdoctoral researcher at INRA, where I studied the on-farm conservation of landraces and historic varieties and helped create a participatory plant breeding program led by an association of organic farmers. Most recently I was a postdoc at Cornell, with research and extension related to value-added grains (emmer, einkorn, spelt and bread wheat) for organic farmers.

What is the main focus of your research program?
My research and extension will focus on the diversified farms that serve urban and regional markets.   This includes urban agriculture and community gardens, and farms on the urban-rural interface that may market directly to consumers or create value-added products for regional markets.  Research projects will depend on farmers’ needs, and could include variety and management trials for high value or specialty crops, rotations and cover crops for small-scale farms, and collaborations with social and economic scientists to strengthen regional food systems and food security.  I am also interested in the conservation and use of crop genetic diversity for regional agriculture.

What drew you to UW-Madison?
UW-Madison has an excellent group of faculty, staff and students working on applied research for sustainable and organic agriculture, both in horticulture and in other departments.  The UW extension system is also one of the strongest in the country.  Wisconsin is a leader in terms of farmers’ organizations and associations and I look forward to working with the many non-profits, extension specialists and faculty on questions that are relevant to farmers in the state.

What do you like to do outside of work?
I enjoy hiking and being outdoors, gardening and reading.