University of Maryland Extension

Mike Newell, Horticulture Manager at the Wye Research Center, Retires After 38 Years

Mike Newell at the Wye Research and Education Center

After 38 years with the Wye Research and Education Center, Horticulture Crop Program Manger Michael Newell, is retiring from the agriculture education industry.

Newell, who earned both his Bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of Maryland, College Park, has a storied career with AGNR and Extension, having lived and breathed Maryland agriculture for almost 40 years.

“I didn’t come from a farming background, I grew up in northern Anne Arundel county,” Newell said, “None of my relatives had farms or were able to inherit a farm, but we always kept a family garden and at some point in my high school years, I had an epiphany or something, and I made a cognizant choice that I was going to get a job that involved working outside.”

Picking apples as a part-time summer job at one of the AGNR research farms as an undergrad exposed Newell to farm management as a profession. “I was really impressed with the farm manager that was there at the time, what they were doing, and I was thinking, yeah, this is what I want to do.”

Although Newell came into the agriculture industry with virtually no farming experience, he credits his success to his companion workers in the Agronomy division. “Their willingness to basically teach me how to farm and assist me in equipment modification and manufacturing probably kept me from being overwhelmed by the job and led to my long career,” Newell said.

From sweet corn and strawberries to more unusual crops like hemp and hops, Newell has worked with dozens of different types of crops throughout his storied career with the university, facilitating research for campus and Extension faculty, as well as graduate students.

“I really enjoyed the interaction with the students and faculty -- every year was a new year; new faculty, new students, new research projects -- it was ever-changing and it’s kept it interesting over all these years,” Newell said. “I’m proud of the relationships I’ve built with the scientists, and that they want to keep coming back here because of the quality of service that we provide for them and their students.”

“I always just felt so comfortable being able to take a protocol or research project to him and know that he would do everything that he needed to to make sure it would be successful,” said Kathryn Everts, current Director of the Wye Research and Education Center, as well as a faculty member with the department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. “Mike was really  the eyes and ears of that research. Anyone on campus who wants to do that type of research can’t be at the farm all the time, so he really filled that need.”

While planting, maintaining, and harvesting crops for data collection related to numerous different studies is the main focus of Newell’s position, he has also spent a lot of time working with food gleaning organizations to provide the excess product for Marylanders in need. Over the last 15 years, Newell has organized the collection of excess product for distribution for food insecure populations. 

Working with the Maryland Food Bank, the Wye REC donated over nine tons of fresh produce last year alone. “It speaks to his dedication,” said Everts. “He just went above and beyond - he’s had a pretty amazing career here.”

“I always hated food going to waste. In the last 10 years, we’ve really excelled at getting the product to people who can use it,” Newell said. “Whoever comes in and takes over this position, I hope they will maintain that relationship with the Food Bank.”

Although he says working as a consultant in the future isn’t necessarily out of the question, Newell is unsure of what the future holds. “I fulfilled my hopes of not having to work an indoor job,” he laughs. “And I always have and still do look forward to growing plants -- added bonus if they’re the edible type.”

With two grown children of his own, Newell and his wife plan to take retirement seriously. “I want to do a little travelling, a lot of fishing, and spend more time with the grandkids,” he said. 

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