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Our People

Greg Litus
WCRC Manager | WCRC-Orchard Mesa
(970) 434-3264 ext. 208

Greg Litus serves as Manager of the Western Colorado Research Center working to support the various research and public service programs that are initiated by resident and visiting scientists at each of the three research stations.  Through the 1980’s and 90’s he was a consultant in the field of environmental hydrogeology and geochemistry.   In 2000 Greg shifted his career into the field of horticulture to focus on water use in trees and perennial plants.  He has B.Sc. degrees in both economics and geology from Oklahoma State University, a M.Sc. in plutonium geochemistry from the University of Colorado at Denver and a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in horticulture from Colorado State University.

photo of Keegan Athey.

Keegan Athey
Research Associate Horticulturist | WCRC-Rogers Mesa

Keegan is a long time farmer, river guide, and desert rat. With more than ten years of experience in organic agriculture, she has pulled calves, carrots, muscles, and weeds on farms and ranches throughout the Intermountain West. After years of running produce farms in Idaho, Keegan shifted out of production agriculture and into a research associate position at OARS-RM. At the research station, she strives to develop efficient systems and conduct practical research in the realms of organic seed production, small and mid-scale vegetable farming, cover cropping, and table grape viticulture. Keegan lives in Hotchkiss, Colorado where she spends her free time running rivers and trails, baking and eating cake, and taking stuff apart with her partner, Andy.

photo of Ben Bentele.

Ben Bentele
Research Associate Horticulturist | WCRC-Rogers Mesa

Ben was formerly a technician in the CU physics department, but finds fruit a whole lot tastier than photons. He moved to the North Forth with a knack for ag technology & a love for gardening. Besides an interest in the science of growth & chaos, Ben is a published poet, translator, & musician as well as an advocate for the arts in rural Colorado.

Bryan Braddy
Research Associate | WCRC-Rogers Mesa
(970) 556-8380

Bryan is a lifelong resident of Western Colorado.  He graduated from Fort Lewis College with degrees in Environmental Biology and Agricultural Science and his studies focused on Range Management and Wildlife Ecology.  Bryan previously worked for Colorado Parks and Wildlife and two other CSU research stations before joining WCRC in 1997.  His work now is centered around all aspects of orchard and vineyard management.  Bryan also teaches pruning techniques to Master Gardeners and backyard growers across Colorado.

Perry Cabot
Research and Extension Leader | WCRC-Grand Valley
Irrigation and Water Resources
(970) 858-3629 ext. 202

Dr. Cabot received his Ph.D. in Agricultural Engineering and Land Resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his B.S. in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University.  His research program focuses on innovative irrigation technologies, sustainable water resources management and crop consumptive use evaluation.  He is the water resources specialist for CSU Extension and the Colorado Water Institute in the Western Region of the state.  He also leads the research and extension mission of the WCRC-Grand Valley in its role as the western CSU campus unit focused on water resources, integrated cropping systems and climate-smart agriculture.

Horst Caspari
Professor | WCRC-Orchard Mesa
(970) 434-3264 ext. 204
Viticulture Program

Born and educated in Germany, Horst studied Agricultural Science at the University of Bonn, Germany, and has a Diplom Agrar Ingenieur (equivalent to Agricultural M.S. degree) and Doctor of Agriculture (equivalent to PhD) from Bonn University. He was a visiting scientist at the Department of Horticultural Science at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand from 1990 to 1993. He held the position of Post-Doc (1994) and Research Scientist (1995 – 2000) with the Horticulture and Food Research Institute of New Zealand prior to joining Colorado State University in July 2000.

Judy Craddock
Accounting Technician | WCRC-Orchard Mesa
(970) 434-3264 ext. 201

Judy happily returned to western Colorado after 5 years as Operations Manager at CU Denver’s Office of Advancement. A native of Tennessee with fond memories of her grandparents’ farm, Judy feels very much at home in the Grand Junction area, with its abundance of produce and sunshine. She’s finding much inspiration at WCRC, surrounded by a dedicated and diverse staff, fascinating research and community outreach efforts.  Judy enjoys all things outdoors, as well as music and food. She plays mandolin and appreciates the way music pairs with hiking and skiing.

Emily Dowdy
Research Associate | WCRC-Orchard Mesa
(970) 434-3264 ext. 207

Emily graduated from CSU in 2009 with a B.S degree in Horticulture. Her studies focused on food crop production and organic systems. She joined Western Colorado Research Center as a Research Associate in 2013. Prior to joining WCRC, Emily worked on a commercial organic orchard in Hotchkiss, Colorado and managed the orchards on a small diversified organic farm, also in Hotchkiss.

Jim Fry
Operational Manager | Research Associate WCRC-Grand Valley
(970) 858-3629 ext 204

Jim is a graduate from Colorado Mesa University with a B.S. in Biology with an emphasis on Wildlife Management and several upper level classes in botany. He is a life time resident of the Grand Valley, a current sixth generation farmer and military veteran.  Jim previously worked for the Federal Government  for 13 years with the National Park Service and most recently the Bureau of Reclamation at a Tractor Operator/ Wildlife Manager.  His objective is to use skills, continuing education, and experience to perform in a manner that reflects his passion for research and agriculture.

Kevin Gobbo
Research Associate | WCRC-Grand Valley
Senior Agricultural Technician
(970) 858-3629 ext. 205

Kevin received his B.S. in Computer Science and Mathematics from Mesa State College and his M.S. in Mathematics from the Colorado School of Mines. He oversees the mechanical and technical aspects of research at the WCRC-Grand Valley, involving computer and logger programming, data management and equipment repair. Having grown up on a family farm in Fruita, he understands the agriculture and community of the Grand Valley.  He enjoys life in beautiful Fruita with his family and his motorcycles.

Reza Keshavarz Afshar
Research Scientist and Extension Specialist | WCRC-Grand Valley
Integrated Cropping Systems
(970) 858-3629 ext. 203

Dr. Keshavarz received his Ph.D. in Agronomy from the University of Tehran in 2014. His applied and field-oriented research and extension program aims to improve sustainability and profitability of the farming systems in western Colorado while seeking environmental protection. Intensification and diversification of the cropping system, conservation soil management practices, cover cropping, nutrient and fertilizer use management, and water use productivity are among the topics studied in his program.

Stephen D. Menke
Associate Professor | WCRC-Orchard Mesa
(970) 434-3264 ext. 202
Enology Program

Ioannis S. Minas
Assistant Professor | WCRC-Orchard Mesa
(970) 434-3264 ext. 205
Pomology Program

Dr. Minas received his PhD in Pomology and Postharvest Physiology from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. During his PhD studies was appointed as a Junior Specialist at the Dept. Plant Sciences at University of California Davis, CA. His research has emphasized on pre- and post-harvest factors and the development and adoption of novel technologies to improve general orchard performance, harvest quality and storage potential of tree-fruits. His research at CSU is focused on orchard and environmental factors affecting productivity, developmental physiology, harvest quality and postharvest physiology of tree-fruits.

Amanda McQuade
Community Alliance for Education and Hunger Relief | WCRC-Orchard Mesa

(970) 462-2113

Amanda has an educational and professional background in the biological sciences, with a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  As a community volunteer, she is most actively involved in efforts to increase science education opportunities in the community and improve people’s access to healthy food. These interests came together when Amanda was hired as the program coordinator for the Community Alliance for Education and Hunger Relief program based out of the Research Center.

Jeff Pieper
Research Associate | WCRC-Orchard Mesa
(970) 471-6252

Has a degree in Horticulture from CSU and a Master’s degree in Sustainable Agriculture from the University of Rhode Island. Jeff is involved in daily field operations at Orchard Mesa Research Station, and is also currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program. In his spare time, Jeff enjoys all the outdoors activities The Grand Valley area has to offer.

David Sterle
Pomology Research Associate | WCRC-Orchard Mesa
(970) 434-3264  ext. 206

David received his M.S. in Soil and Crop Sciences from Colorado State University and B.S. in Crop Science and Horticulture from California State University-Chico. He has worked with various fruit and nut crops as a disease scout and orchardist.

photo of Ben Tonnessen.

Brad Tonnessen
Research Scientist | WCRC-Rogers Mesa

Brad Tonnessen grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, received his B.S. in Biology at the University of New Mexico, and earned a Ph.D. at Colorado State University in genetics and plant pathology. He spent time as an organic farmer and teacher at a non-profit in Sacramento, California. As the program manager for Vegetable Extension at New Mexico State University, Brad pursued projects in chile pepper breeding and research on mixed vegetable production, giving demonstrations and talks on seed-saving, sustainable agriculture, and genetics. As the research scientist for OARS-RM, Brad is working to sustain and build the community presence of this research station and produce ground-breaking research to benefit farmers. Research areas include organic treatments of Cytospora canker disease in peach, strategies to increase soil health, apple pest management, cold hardiness in perennial crops, vegetable variety trials, and local seed saving.

Adam Wright
Research Associate | WCRC-Orchard Mesa
(970) 434-3264 ext. 206

Adam graduated from CSU in 2015 with a degree in Horticulture that concentrated on Viticulture and Enology. Before joining WCRC, he worked as a grower in the Cannabis industry from 2016 to 2018 and served in the United States Army as a Combat Medic from 2004 to 2012.

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