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New Agriculture and Natural Resources Program leader joins Purdue Extension team

Henry Quesada grew up on a farm in the mountains of Costa Rica, about five miles away from the nearest house.

“I remember when I was little, we had cattle and we made cheese. Every week we loaded the horses and went to the nearest grocery store where we traded cheese for food,” reflected Quesada. “We had a really sustainable life. We used everything, nothing was wasted.”

Quesada brings those early lessons in sustainability, entrepreneurship and innovation to the position of Purdue Extension assistant director and program leader for agriculture and natural resource, which he assumed earlier this month.

Henry Quesada Henry Quesada (Photo by Tom Campbell)

Quesada earned his bachelor’s degree from Costa Rica Institute of Technology. He continued his education at Purdue University, receiving his master’s and doctorate in wood products technology.

“For my master’s thesis, I designed a manufacturing system for the construction of school furniture using simple technologies. To prove my concept of the production system, we went to Costa Rica and produced over 50 furniture sets using basic tools. All the furniture was then donated to a school,” he said.

Following his education at Purdue, Quesada returned to Costa Rica to serve for four years as a faculty member at the Instituto Tecnològico de Costa Rica. In 2008, he returned to the U.S. to join the sustainable biomaterials department at Virginia Tech, where he has taught, led study abroad trips and researched supply chain issues that affect hardwood lumber use in value-added products.

Through outreach and educational programs, Quesada supported the competitiveness of wood and forestry products in Virginia. He worked closely with members of the hardwood industry in the Appalachian region to research new lumber products with the intent to create jobs and economic development in the area. By being in close contact with manufacturers, Quesada identified research priorities based on the markets and industrial, residential and commercial applications.

“At Virginia Tech, I was able to connect with the forestry industry and communities and helped support initiatives locally, regionally and nationally. In my new position at Purdue, I am excited to continue to explore innovations and partnerships in Indiana, a state with a diverse agriculture and lumber industry from row crops to local foods to livestock to hardwoods. I am an entrepreneur at heart and believe we have many opportunities to work with Indiana farmers to identify and reach new markets with existing and new products.”

“We are extremely fortunate to have someone with the breadth and depth of Dr. Quesada’s experience join the Extension leadership team,” said Jason Henderson, senior associate dean and director of Purdue Extension. “I am excited to see him introduce new ideas and work closely with our Extension faculty and educators and the communities we serve.”

Quesada teaching Quesada delivering an educational program on experiential learning to high school teachers in Guatemala to support agroforestry curriculum development in August 2018. (Photo provided by Henry Quesada)

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