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In memoriam: Karen Klonsky remembered as distinguished professional and warm and caring friend

Karen Klonsky
Karen Klonsky, emeritus University of California Cooperative Extension specialist in agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis, died on Sept. 29, 2018, at age 66 after an extended illness.

Karen was an internationally respected and influential agricultural economist, who contributed important publications and research in her fields of study. She conducted a lauded extension program, was known for evaluating and stimulating environmentally sound farm practices, and operated a widely recognized program on measuring farm costs and returns. This part of Karen Klonsky was public.

At the same time, Karen was a dear friend to many across her profession, her community and throughout the University of California and California agriculture. The consummate professional, Karen was also a warm, generous and caring person who created a large network of friends. Of course, her family and close personal friends feel her loss most deeply. She is also intensely missed in her community of Winters, where her service ranged from being a local 4-H volunteer to a soccer referee. Here we focus on the professional Karen Klonsky, but it is not possible to separate the person from the professional.

Over her 35-year distinguished career, Karen became known for stellar service that engaged a multitude of stakeholders in California and globally. She attained a reputation as a national and international leader in the economics of integrated, sustainable practices in agriculture, including organic agriculture. She contributed economic analyses to many groundbreaking studies, more than 350 published items, including alternatives to pre-plant soil fumigation in multiple cropping systems, conservation tillage and integrated pest management. Her work in the economics of environmentally sound farm practices includes evaluation of the economic feasibility of specific production systems, assessment of marketing options for organic growers, and determinants of growers' decisions to enter and exit organic production.

Karen contributed broadly to the agricultural economics profession and California agriculture. Locally, she was associate director of UC ANR's Agricultural Issues Center in Davis, and a member of the executive committee of the UC Giannini Foundation. She held many prestigious positions within the broader agricultural economics community, including as an associate editor for California Agriculture, an editor for the Journal of the American Association of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, the president of the Agricultural and the Applied Economics Association (AAEA) Extension Section (2005-2006), the vice president of the Western Agricultural Economics Association, and the Western Region director for the AAEA Extension section.

In recognition of her substantive research record and extensive experience working with industry, she was named to the Advisory Committee on Agricultural Statistics for the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the USDA. She served as a technical representative to the California Organic Foods Advisory Board to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, as well as the LLC Board of the California Certified Organic Farmers. She also played an important role in helping to develop the national organic standards through her advice and counsel to officials in Washington DC.

Karen made substantial contributions to understanding the economic performance of many California commodities and production systems. The cost and return study series was an important and highly visible part of Karen's research and outreach program. Each study in the series characterizes the costs of production for a specific crop in a specific region of California. She was instrumental in hundreds of cost studies over the course of her career. Karen's collaborations, especially on the UC cost and return studies, resulted in relevant, applied economic analyses for all of California agriculture and, indeed, the world. Her publications were valued by bankers, investors, governments, farmers, non-farm business, researchers and students as the “go to” publications. As one UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor noted: “Rarely a day goes by without my referencing something from one of the cost and return studies; my work has benefitted profoundly from these analyses.” 

During her long and distinguished career, Karen often partnered with and led broad cross-sections of UCCE colleagues on statewide research and education projects of consequence. Many attribute their own successful career achievements to Karen having provided opportunities to partner on innovative projects and emerging issues for California agriculture.

Karen's academic productivity and contributions to California agriculture are well-documented. One sign of her influence was the dozens and dozens of competitive grants and collaborative, interdisciplinary projects that she was responsible for.

Karen's willingness to work collaboratively with colleagues with the full range of perspectives and experience contributed mightily to discussion and dialog. She was willing to tackle thorny issues and difficult topics, while working with collaborators and agricultural industry clientele, many of whom had strongly held views that may have differed from her own.

She was always available to help with hard questions and lend advice on issues. She would drive long distances, literally 'go the extra mile' to deliver information to diverse audiences attracted to her presentations. On campus at Davis, she mentored generations of students and new academics, who themselves have gone on to make notable contributions. As one reflected, “Karen, quite simply, changed my life.” Karen also inspired young economists to pursue careers in Cooperative Extension, where they contribute to the food and agriculture industry across the country.

Karen was preceded in death by her father and her brother. She is deeply missed by her husband, Yves Boisrame, daughters Gabrielle and Lilian Boisrame, and her mother, Ruth Klonsky. Karen's capacity to establish new relationships and sustain long-term relationships with diverse individuals and groups created a remarkable legacy. She is deeply missed by all who knew her and even by many who only knew her indirectly through her influential legacy.

At the time of this writing, there were no plans for a memorial service for Klonsky.

Posted on Thursday, November 29, 2018 at 10:02 AM
  • Author: Daniel Sumner
  • Author: Rachael Goodhue
  • Author: Laura Tourte

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