Dr. Rebecca Jablonski is an assistant professor and food systems Extension economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Jablonski earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell, master’s degree from University of London, and found her way back to Cornell for her PhD.
From Philadelphia to Martinique, France, Jablonski’s journey in agriculture has been anything but standard.
“I grew up in Philadelphia. Even though I don’t have a traditional ag background, I think I’ve been able to occupy a place where I have a decent understanding of urban issues and rural issues,” says Jablonski. “I try to do a lot of work in fostering better communication across those groups.”
Jablonski teaches a course on Small Farm and Agribusiness Management (AREC 328). “During that course I try really hard to make sure my students are working on projects that are applicable to all kinds of small/mid-scale businesses around the state,” says Jablonski, “My students work with business owners in Colorado directly.”
Complimentary to her curriculum focus on Colorado agricultural business, Jablonski also helps facilitate the Colorado Food Systems Advisory Council (COFSAC) while remaining very active in the Colorado Food Systems Extension team.
“Extension is uniquely positioned because they are not an advocacy group, whereas commodity groups often are,” says Jablonski. “Extension is playing a more neutral role. They’re going to work across commodities, across scale and sectors – that’s the fascinating thing about extension.”
Jablonski was instrumental in the development of the Colorado Blueprint of Food and Agriculture, a project collaborating CSU with the COFSAC, along with other partners.
“I had a long and wide path before I went and got my PhD,” says Jablonski. “As an undergraduate, I majored in African History. I spent some time living in Ghana, and I started to get engaged in agriculture there. The summer after my junior year I got a job with the EPA in the National Network for Environmental Management Studies Fellowship Program [NNEMS].”
The goal of the NNEMS program is to fast-track individuals to becoming managers at the Environmental Protection Agency. “During the course of that work, I researched non-point source pollution on American Indian reservations,” says Jablonski. “The largest cause of non-point source pollution is agriculture, and so I started to get more engaged in different issues related to agriculture. Once I graduated, I got a job working for the French government, and I was placed in Martinique. I was in a very rural location working with producers, and that got me interested in agricultural issues.”
It wasn’t until her master’s program at the University of London where Jablonski was introduced to economics. In her diverse portfolio of experiences, Jablonski has worked in agricultural development in West Africa, worked for agricultural non-profits in Cameroon, and worked with the California Institute for Rural Studies.
“As researchers, we sometimes tend to stick to things we can measure. Sometimes the things that are going to be game changers are the things that are much harder to measure. When we take the time to measure some of those pieces, we see that they really do matter. It’s worth taking the time to think about the most important aspects to understand. What’s going to matter the most to communities or people you’re working with?”
Upon completion of her PhD, Jablonski received several faculty positions across the country. At the time she had a grant with the USDA Economic Research Service, so an opportunity for a post-doc and more training pointed Jablonski to CSU.
“I called up Dawn Thilmany who is at CSU, and I twisted her arm to let me do a post-doc here because of anyone I know in the country, she really does the best job at integrating research and extension,” says Jablonski. “I decided I wanted to be a professor because I saw the opportunity to do research and extension – and I love extension.”
That post-doctoral position eventually turned into a faculty position in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Jablonski has been a Ram for six years and continues to foster community not only in the College of Agricultural Sciences, but the university system as well.
Regarding her love for the extension service, Jablonski states, “I think we’ve lost a lot of our human capital and infrastructure in rural places. Extension provides this pivotal link between research with science-based evidence and community needs. It’s an incredible opportunity to really get connected with what’s happening on the ground and what some of the research needs are to be able to bring it back to help communities. That’s what I love about it.”
Jablonski and her team are currently planning the 2020 Colorado Food Summit, which will be held at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on Jan. 12, 2020.
For more information of the Colorado Food Summit, COFSAC, or her work with extension, contact Jablonski at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Profile written by Linc Thomas.