Who We Are

Krista Jacobsen, PhD – Assistant Professor, Department of Horticulture, University of Kentucky – Dr. Jacobsen's research focuses on evaluating effects of sustainable agricultural systems on soil quality and fertility in sustainable and organic farming systems, and evaluating economic, human labor and energy requirements in these systems.  An agroecologist by training, Dr. Jacobsen and the members of her lab work from an interdisciplinary, systems perspective. This includes understanding not only the functioning of alternative horticultural systems but also considering the social and economic fabric within which these systems are woven.  Current Jacobsen Lab projects include, exploring conservation tillage in organic vegetable production systems, evaluating new crops for organic production in Kentucky, assessing energy use in diversified organic vegetable production systems, and developing and maintaining high tunnel research facilities focused on year-round diversified vegetable production in movable and non-movable high tunnels. The bulk of field research activities occur at the University of Kentucky (UK), and are centered at the Organic Farming Unit (UK OFU), a 20-acre USDA Certified Organic research and teaching facility on the UK Horticulture Research Farm in Lexington, KY.  

A native to southwest Iowa, Krista got her PhD in Ecology at the University of Georgia, and completed her undergraduate degree at Virginia Tech. She was a postdoctoral researcher in Agronomy at Penn State before coming to UK in 2009.  She teaches and advises in UK's Sustainable Agriculture Undergraduate Degree Program.  Her courses include Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture (SAG 101), Plant Production Systems (PLS 386, co-taught with Dr. Mark Williams), Agroecology (SAG 390) and a 5-week summer study abroad to Indonesia in Tropical Agroecology and Sustainable Development.

Current Graduate Students

Debendra Shrestha, PhD Candidate in Integrated Plant and Soil Science

Rebecca Shelton, M.S. Candidate in Integrated Plant and Soil Sciences - Project Title: Investigating nitrogen dynamics and loss in conventionally and organically managed conservation agriculture systems with wheat and hairy vetch cover crops

Rebecca Shelton completed her undergraduate work at Furman University and received her B.S. in Earth and Environmental Science with a biology concentration.  Originally from Kentucky, she returned to UK in order to pursue a masters degree in July 2013.

Her research interests lie within the realm of agroecology and natural resource management.  Specifically, she is interested in agriculture’s impact on climate and the environment, small-scale farm efficiency, and quantification of ecosystem services.  She is working with both the McCulley lab and the Jacobsen lab to study plant available nitrogen produced by leguminous cover crops and trace gas emissions in a reduced till, cover cropped system. 


K.L. Mizin, M.S. in Integrated Plant and Soil Science – Kavita successfully defended her thesis in Spring 2014. 

Kavita began her career in Finance after graduating from McGill University with a Bachelor’s in Commerce in 2009.  However, after feeling a pull to get back to her roots, Kavita left her job and took an Agroforestry and Tropical Horticulture internship at the Jama Coaque Reserva in coastal Ecuador.  After returning to the United States in 2011, Kavita worked on a number of certified organic diversified vegetable and livestock operations throughout the North East United States, including her own family business in Pennsylvania, Plant Magic Perennials.  Kavita’s research interests are focused on the downstream effects of agricultural systems, primarily human health and nutrition. 

Vicky AndersonM.S. in Integrated Plant and Soil Sciences Vicky successfully defended her thesis entitled Nitrogen Cycling, Plant Growth and Production of Secondary Compounds of Calendula officials in Organic Production Systems in Spring 2013. 

Vicky Anderson is from Silver Spring Maryland.  She graduated from Hood College in 2007, double majoring in chemistry and archaeology.  After graduating she worked for several years as a science assistant in the Directorate for Education and Human Resources at the National Science Foundation (EHR-NSF).  Vicky is pursuing a masters degree in plant a soil science in the horticulture department.  Her research is focusing in part on organic nutrition in a greenhouse setting, using medicinal herb and ornamental flower Calendula officinalis as a model species.  The other aspect of her research examines the effects of nutrition on the medical properties of Calendula officinalis.  Vicky hopes to continue to study the chemical aspects of natural products.  

Alex HesslerM.S. in Integrated Plant and Soil SciencesAlex successfully defended his thesis entitled Reduced Tillage and Living Mulches in Organic Production Systems in Fall 2013. He is currently employed as the Sustainable Food Systems Director at Virginia Tech University.

I earned a B.S. in Resource Conservation from the University of Montana, Missoula.  My hometown is Chapel Hill, North Carolina, perfectly situated halfway between the outer banks and the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Seasonal jobs in the outdoors have been excellent excuses for me to explore the natural history and management of forests and agricultural landscapes.  I have worked as an intern at an outdoor survival skills school for children in New Jersey, a wildland firefighter in Idaho, and a forest research technician in Montana.  My interest in sustainable agriculture grew from an internship at N.C. State University’s Center for Environmental Farming Systems, and by working on the student-run farm at the University of Montana.  The year prior to my arrival at UK was spent on an organic vegetable farm in western North Carolina. 

I am interested in optimizing weed management strategies and conservation tillage practices for organic vegetable production.  I believe that cover crops, prudent cultivation, creative rotations, and an adaptable approach towards tillage are the foundation of sustainable farming systems.  My graduate research with Dr. Krista Jacobsen is focused on the influence of conservation tillage and inter-seeded cover crops, or “living mulches,” on nitrogen mineralization, weed community composition, and soil aggregate stability in organic bell pepper production.  I am grateful to work beside the students and faculty of UK’s student run organic CSA, and hope to replicate this model for hands-on learning as an educator in the future.