Seven Questions with Dr. Patty Skinkis

  1. What is your position at Oregon State University/OWRI?

I am the Viticulture Extension Specialist and an associate professor in the Department of Horticulture. My Extension program encompasses outreach statewide. 

  1. What do you enjoy most about your work?

My position entails duties in the three mission areas of the land grant university:  Extension, research and teaching. I truly enjoy being able to work in these areas and with the different groups that these missions serve, including industry, students and the scientific community. By having this tripartite position, I have been able to develop programs that integrate rather than segregate research from extension and education. 

  1. When you’re not working, how do you enjoy spending your time?

I spend most of my non-work time with my family. We enjoy gardening and landscape design; I constantly am improving my home landscape while my turf-fanatic husband manicures our lawn. I particularly enjoy finding and growing different herbaceous perennials and woody ornamentals. Those who know me well know that I dislike shopping, but I love visiting nurseries in search of new and interesting plants. I also enjoy vegetable gardening, cooking, and sewing. More recently, these hobbies have been replaced with chasing around my endearing 1 year old son. 

  1. What inspired you to choose your career path?

I grew up on my family’s dairy farm outside of Green Bay, Wisconsin, where I enjoyed being a part of agricultural production. Over time, I had a greater interest in crop production than dairy cattle, and chose to pursue plant sciences in college. I initially thought about studying botany but quickly realized that horticulture was the better route to go if I wanted to work with agricultural production. I also found horticultural plants far more interesting than the corn, soybeans and forages that I was more familiar with. Therefore, I studied Professional Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. While learning about different horticulture production systems, I became most interested in vegetable and fruit production. It was during an internship at the University of Wisconsin Peninsular Ag Research Station in Sturgeon Bay, WI that I had my first exposure to cold hardy grapevines. There were many interesting research questions and production challenges to be tackled for grape production in the Midwest, so I chose to focus my graduate studies in viticulture. I chose a graduate program where I could get exposure to both applied research and Extension. I studied viticulture under Dr. Bruce Bordelon at Purdue University where I earned my PhD in Horticulture. In growing up on a farm, I saw firsthand how Extension provided information to producers, and the great impact it had on farming practices; I wanted to be able to serve in this capacity through my career. 

  1. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Be honest and hard-working. It may not lead to great success nor be popular, but at least you will be able to sleep at night.

  1. Which three people (living or dead) would you invite to dinner? 

Andy Rooney – I always enjoyed his short weekly broadcasts on 60 Minutes that often provided an enlightening and humorous view of everyday occurrences and current events. 

Mother Teresa – It would be a distinct honor to be in the presence of someone who spent her entire life giving so much to those who had so little. 

Vince LombardiYes, he is considered the #1 coach of all time (ESPN), and he served as coach for the best football team in the US. However, that is not the only reason I chose him. I have great respect for his ability to lead a team from spoils to swift success. He was hard-working and had strong standards, two qualities I strive for in my life. 

  1. What is your vision for the future of your research?

I want the research that I conduct to have true impact and lead to change not only in how things are done in industry but how they view viticulture and vineyard production. This requires long-term studies that integrate industry with the research process, much like the Statewide Crop Load Project. I hope that results of my research program will lead to sound and applicable metrics and guidelines that can actually be used by the industry and have an impact on how they do business, not just be filed away in a scientific journal for students or other academics to read in the future.

I have some more basic scientific interests, but what motivates me as an Extension specialist and applied research is integrating science and asking questions of applied research that others before me had not considered. Sometimes looking at things from a slightly different perspective creates a minor shift in our operational paradigm that can mean big changes. The question often on my mind in applied research is whether outcomes of our production practices are real or perceived. Viticulture researchers who work with winegrapes have the distinct challenge of considering the art-science divide more than any other cropping system. How to approach design of impactful research studies must consider more facets than just horticulture science.