Elizabeth Mitcham served as the director for the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture, a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded Feed the Future initiative program based at the University of California, Davis, from 2011 until her retirement in June 2023. Mitcham first joined the program as the associate director in 2009, and contributed her expertise as a postharvest phsyiologist, which led to great advancements in horticulture innovations and the postharvest handling of produce to reduce food loss and waste. As director, Mitcham oversaw the program and was responsible for external relations, strategic planning and financial management. Through Mitcham's advocacy and leadership, the program collaborated with more than 18 U.S. universities and 200 organizations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia with projects spanning the horticultural value chain. Her deep understanding of the critical role of horticulture in emerging economies, enabled Mitcham to enhance the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and their communities, advancing global food security initiatives, while improving human nutrition and health, in countries all over the world.
During her tenure at UC Davis, Mitcham also served as director of the UC Postharvest Technology Center, where she helped train industry, academics, and students from more than 40 countries as part that program’s activities. She was honored as Outstanding International Horticulturist by the American Society for Horticultural Sciences in 2015, elected Vice-President of the International Division of the American Society for Horticultural Science in 2016, and awarded the UC Davis Chancellor's International Engagement Achievement Award in 2017. In 2022, Mitcham received the Dr. H Marc Cathey Award - named for H. Marc Cathey, a horticultural scientist who served as President of the American Horticultural Society for many years - which is given to an individual for outstanding scientific research that has enriched horticulture and plant science.
Mitcham joined the UC Davis faculty in 1992 as a UC Cooperative Extension specialist. She holds degrees in horticulture from the University of Maryland (Ph.D. and B.S.) and North Carolina State University (M.S.).
First international travel experience:
In 1995, I participated in a Farmer to Farmer program in Guatemala, working with peach and apple growers in the highlands. I really loved the country and the people and it was a great adventure for me.
What is your favorite travel tip?
Take the time to closely observe your surroundings. You will learn a lot about the country you are visiting and it's good for your security too!
Mango - they have a wonderful flavor and the texture can be very creamy and juicy (if you get the right variety!)