Farm Horizons, December 2016

Meet the new Extension educator for McLeod and Meeker counties

By Starrla Cray
Associate Editor

The past few months have been a whirlwind for Karen (Anderson) Johnson, in a good way.

“I got married, moved, and started a new job all within about a week and a half,” said Johnson, who became the new extension educator for McLeod and Meeker counties in late August.

Johnson grew up on a dairy farm south of Lester Prairie with her parents, David and Donna Anderson, and graduated from Lester Prairie High School in 2008.

She moved to the Twin Cities to attend the University of Minnesota, but agriculture always stayed with her. Johnson was selected as a Princess Kay of the Milky Way finalist in 2010, and received the Merle Howard Award for being the World Dairy Expo’s top junior exhibitor a year later. At the end of 2011, Johnson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in animal science.

“Right out of college, I got an internship with Genex/CRI,” she said.

At Genex Cooperative in Shawano, WI, which is a subsidiary of Cooperative Resources International (CRI), Johnson had an opportunity to learn about cattle genetics, reproduction, and livestock marketing.

She continued on an agricultural path after her internship, working as a herdsman on dairy farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In February 2014, Johnson became an agriculture extension educator for Rice and Steele counties.

“There are a number of extension educators throughout Minnesota, and we’re here to serve whatever needs there are,” Johnson said.

In July, the previous extension educator for McLeod and Meeker counties, Nathan Winter, was promoted to a regional position, leaving an opening for Johnson to work closer to her hometown.

During that time, Johnson was also planning her Aug. 12 wedding. She and her husband, Beau, met through, a dating website geared toward people who enjoy the country. Beau works at a farm equipment dealership, and he and his dad have a small hobby farm in Willmar.

As an extension educator, Johnson provides technical support for both agriculture and horticulture.

“I’m always looking for different ways to connect with producers,” Johnson said.

During the growing season, she often receives questions like “What’s wrong with my tree?” or “How do I get rid of a particular weed?” Johnson works closely with master gardening groups and other entities to provide programs and information.

In winter, Johnson can be found providing education on land rent, private pesticide use, crop input management, tractor safety, and more. One of her goals is to create opportunities for young professionals to get together and progress as a group.

Meeker and McLeod County residents are welcome to contact Johnson with comments or questions about agriculture and horticulture. She can be reached at (320) 484-4303 or

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