Joe Emenheiser has joined the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural resources as an assistant extension educator. “I’m really excited and looking forward to meeting people and mapping out what we can do together to advance Connecticut agriculture,” he says. “I am fond of the rural Storrs area, particularly the campus and farms. It’s unique to have such a wide variety of livestock at one institution in New England.”
Emenheiser brings with him a wealth of experience. After earning his bachelor’s degree in animal science from Oklahoma State University in 2004, he managed A&A Sheep Farm in Richfield Springs, New York, then was employed as a butcher at Godfrey Brothers Meats, Inc., in York, Pennsylvania. He earned a master’s degree in animal and poultry sciences from Virginia Tech in 2009 and managed another sheep flock at Kyle Farms in Avon, New York, then served as an educator with the National Sheep Improvement Program in Blacksburg, Virginia.
In 2013, Emenheiser received a Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in animal and poultry sciences and moved to New England to join the University of Vermont Extension faculty as the state livestock specialist. He served in that role through 2016, then worked briefly as animal husbandry and farm operations manager for The Binding Site, Inc,. in Benson, Vermont, and as production and harvest supervisor at Green Pasture Meats in New Haven, Vermont, while providing independent livestock consulting services. Beginning in 2019, Emenheiser supplemented his consulting business as an adjunct lecturer, teaching biology and animal science courses at the University of Vermont and Vermont Technical College until deciding to pursue the extension and teaching position at UConn.
Committed to blending his education with hands-on livestock and farm management experience, Emenheiser will connect with Connecticut farmers and work to understand their day-to-day issues in his Extension work and provide practical animal science education in the classroom.
Emenheiser was raised in a rural area of Pennsylvania. His parents were both teachers, and they owned a small farm with vegetables and a few animals. As a member of 4-H, Emenheiser raised sheep and began competing in livestock and meats judging, which he continued successfully at the intercollegiate level. In 2002, he founded a purebred Suffolk sheep flock that has since received national recognition.
While he is well-versed in a wide range of species and animal science disciplines, Emenheiser’s area of specialization is livestock production, breeding and genetics, and meat quality improvement.
“I recognized fairly early on that I wanted to promote the livestock industries,” he says. “As time went on, I sought hands-on opportunities that directly involved me in the industry. I feel fortunate to have found this position, which is a combination of both being on campus amidst great scientists and enthusiastic students, and working with UConn Extension and the folks in the field, where I can contribute based on my experience.”
He continues, “Teaching and applied research offers a niche for me where I can offer some background and skills that keep the College well-rounded and rooted in the land-grant mission. I enjoy being in the classroom, inspiring the next generation of students to be advocates for the field. I am also interested in livestock production systems and the economies that go with them that improve the livestock industry in Connecticut.”
Emenheiser’s first project is conducting an industry needs assessment among Connecticut farmers. “COVID-19 is limiting some of this because extension involves a lot of fieldwork and handshake relationships,” he notes. “Long term, I am looking for opportunities for economic development and meat quality improvement. I’d like to create proactive programs that move the industry forward.”
As an instructor, he encourages students to become lifelong learners. “I am always learning from my students’ different perspectives and personalities, and I encourage them to learn from each other. I really don’t like education that focuses on simply memorizing information for exams. I think it is important for students or for adults in an extension program to develop confidence, critical thinking and communication skills and make the material relevant to daily life.
“I am ready to hit the ground running and work together with folks to make a difference in the Connecticut livestock industry. I am always happy to get a phone call or email from people who have ideas or questions.”
Contact Dr. Emenheiser at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at the Windham County Extension Center (860) 774-9600.