Dr. Christine Coker

Dr. Christine Coker is an associate professor and horticulturalist at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, Mississippi. She also serves as the research scientist for the Beaumont Horticultural Unit, a 20-acre vegetable research station in Perry County, Mississippi.

By: Vanessa Beeson

Dr. Christine Coker

Current Research

I conduct vegetable variety trials research and evaluation of vegetable production practices, such as high tunnels. The research data generated is disseminated to producers, large and small, to help them extend the growing season and increase profits. I also conduct research evaluating the availability of local foods for schools and communities.

Name A Specific Time When Your Research Was Applied

I really enjoy working with schools, students, and educators teaching them about horticulture. I introduce children to farming, many for the first time, and help them understand where their food comes.

How Does Your Research Benefit The Community?

The results of my research span commercial production to home gardens. I love plant science which ultimately led me to horticulture. This has given me the opportunity to help producers grow more food for our increasing urban populations and teach our extension clientele how to grow their own food.

Provide An Example Of A Great Partnership

One of the first schools I worked with was East Central Lower Elementary in Jackson County. I provided technical assistance to their parent teacher organization in helping them with planning, design, and planting their first school garden. This garden was used by one of the kindergarten teachers working on her national boards. I also work closely with the Harrison County Soil and Water Conservation District, an agency that offers mini-grants for school and community gardens in Harrison County. Thus far, I've participated in the start-up of more than 30 gardens.

How Does Your Research Help Inform Your Extension Role And Vice Versa?

Research and extension go hand and hand. I am the president of a local soup kitchen and this role brings my research and extension efforts full-circle. We live in an agricultural state and there is so much abundance yet not everyone has access. I pursued this research to feed people and I participate in the soup kitchen to feed people. I get to see, firsthand, the journey from production to the plate.

What Research Are You Looking Forward To On The Horizon?

The Southern Rural Development Center has brought together a committee comprised of representatives from 13 southern land-grant universities to discuss local food systems. I am one of the MSU representatives on that committee. I am excited about the upcoming research initiative that evaluates food production from a whole systems approach; assessing areas like production, farm-to-school, and even food waste management.