Katie Poppiti – Helping Make the World a Better Place

Katie Poppiti has seen much of the world during her 20-something years.  She was born in Knoxville, TN but spent her youth in numerous places including Salinas, CA; Denver, CO; and Butler and Armstrong counties in Western Pennsylvania before landing in Kennett Square.

Her father works in the agriculture industry and the family moved when he received new opportunities for work.

Having grown up around agriculture and agribusiness, Katie headed off to college at The Pennsylvania State University where she majored in Community and Environment Development.

After college, she did an internship with the American Mushroom Institute before finding work with Penn State Extension in Chester County as a Mushroom Extension & 4-H (plant an animal sciences) Educator.  Katie went on to earn a Master’s degree in Sustainable Food Systems from Green Mountain College.

Through her work at Penn State Extension, Katie got to know Jodi Gauker, Program Manager for AgConnect, an initiative of the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC).

Last summer, when AgConnect was looking to hire a new Program Coordinator, Kate stepped in to fill that role.  During her first year, her job has expanded to include coordinating both the Smart Energy Initiative (SEI) as well as CCEDC’s youth engagement activities.

According to CCEDC’s Nancy Kunkle, Program Manager for SEI “Katie brings her “best self” to work every day coming up with solutions to do things more efficiently or how to help her team or employers, and she has fun along the way!”

AgConnect Program Manger, Jodi Gauker added “Katie is an asset to our AgConnect program, not only because of her extensive equine and mushroom industry experience right here in Chester County but also because she is passionate about agriculture and building opportunities for youth to learn about the industry she so loves. We’re fortunate to have her on our team.”

Weekend Edition: As someone who was living and working in Kennett Square, what was it about CCEDC that made you want to commute to another part of Chester County?

Katie Poppiti: I was already familiar with Jodi Gauker and the great work being done by AgConnect and I happened to be ready for a career change that would expose me to a more diverse range of agribusinesses.  It was truly the right time and a perfect fit.  Plus, the commute isn’t too bad!

WE: What do you enjoy most about working at CCEDC?

KP: It may sound cliché, but all of the people at CCEDC are wonderful.  I also enjoy the fact that my job is ever-changing with the work I do on different projects for the agriculture and energy industries.  The youth programming is close to my heart because it is so important to get students out of the classroom and into companies so see what real world jobs look like and are available to them.

WE: What is the coolest or most important trend you see today?

KP: I’m aware that more people are interested in sustainability but as a buzzword it is often overused and/or misunderstood.  People want to know where their food comes from and how it is made.  Having grown up around agriculture and agribusiness, I’ve always had an interest in these processes which naturally lends itself to sustainability discussions.  When I started college I knew that I wanted to help make our food system more sustainable but during my studies I learned more about contributing factors such as biodiversity loss, water issues, pollution, and climate change.

WE: What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?

KP: I love to go horseback riding.  Right now I’m participating in a “work to ride” program at Fox Hollow Farm in Unionville.  I’m a former jumper but currently am involved in Dressage. I also enjoy contributing equestrian-themed facts to CCEDC’s list of Did You Knows? – for example half of the US Olympic Eventing Team is from Chester County.  In fact, Phillip Dutton who is from West Grove just won a bronze medal in Individual Eventing in Rio and is also the oldest member of USA’s team.

I’m fairly adventurous and caught the travel bug at an early age: two trips were particularly memorable.  One of my trips to Italy was with my family to visit the hometowns of my great-grandparents.  We met tons of extended family and of course, ate too much food!

During my time at Penn State, I went on a PSU Soil Science trip to Jordan.  Not only was the country filled with history but also have every type of ecosystem – desert, wetlands, and fertile valleys. My group also had some extra excitement when we looking for some ancient ruins in the middle of a desert with only GPS coordinates.  Suddenly, the satellite phone pinged with the message “welcome to Syria” and we hastily backtracked into Jordan.”

WE: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years?

KP: Ideally, I would like to be working and training horses on my own farmette.  Additionally, I hope to expand sustainability throughout the county by building an affordable tiny house community.  Chester County offers so many amenities for young people – restaurants, nightlife, outdoor activities, and jobs but often younger workers are priced out of the housing market.  I believe in having experiences over stuff and the tiny house movement can help make that a reality.

What’s next for Katie Poppiti?

While the farmette and tiny house may be a little further down the road for Katie, in the meantime you can find her working hard at CCEDC arranging career exploration programming for area youth for the upcoming school year.

Katie is also organizing the Leaders in LEED – Saint-Gobain & CertainTeed North American HQ Tour from 3:00pm to 5:00pm on Wednesday, September 14 for SEI.  Participants will learn how the company took a previously empty and energy inefficient office building and transformed it into a modern structure that uses less water and energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

SEI is charging a fee for the tour and AIA CEU credits are available for eligible participants.  Register on line at http://ccedcpa.com/events/leaders-in-leed-saint-gobain-tour/.

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