Extension agent Karen Massey leaves dream job to pursue adventure
October 17, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — At the end of October, longtime Colorado State University Extension Agent Karen Massey will trade in her dream job for an adventure.
"To arrive in Steamboat Springs and hear that they were looking for an extension agent was like a dream come true," Massey said. "This job really is something that I was preparing for from the time I graduated from high school."
Massey became Routt County’s 25th family and consumer science extension agent in 2005 and was promoted to extension director five years ago.
At the end of this month, Massey will retire from her post to sail the Caribbean with her husband, Dean.
"I want to go sailing, and if I wait tell I'm older I will not be able to do a lot of the physical things that I want to do," Massey said. "I guess I use the term retirement really loosely… I have told people many times that I have already retired once when my husband and I quit our jobs and got on a sail boat."
That was back in 1997 when Massey left her job teaching food sciences at Metropolitan State College in Denver and her husband left his position as an attorney to go sailing with their twin boys, Jackson and Ben. That adventure lasted four years, and when it ended, the Masseys landed in Steamboat Springs.
According to Karen, Steamboat offered everything the family was looking for, and when she got the job with the Routt County Extension Office, she knew it was meant to be.
In her current position, Massey supports local food efforts and teaches nutrition and food safety. She is also the chairman of the Northwest Colorado Food Coalition and is very involved with 4-H and the Routt County Fair, playing a key role with the home arts groups and Exhibit Day.
"Routt County and CSU are both going to miss Karen and her passion for educating youth and adults alike, said Todd Hagenbuch, agriculture extension agent. “Her energy and enthusiasm are contagious, and her knowledge of so many things is immense. The void she leaves will be hard to fill."
Massey grew up in a rural area near Glenwood Springs, and after graduating from Colorado State University, she found herself on the Front Range where she worked a variety of jobs in the food industry including a 12-year stint at Coors working as a dietitian at the company’s wellness center. She also worked for the Western Dairy Council and as a teacher at Metropolitan State University.
During that time, Massey had a brush with fame, offering her advice as a nutritionist on Blinky's Fun Club, a local children's show that aired in the Denver area from 1966 to 1998.
"Blinky (actor Russell Scott) was an old vaudevillian, and he would do all kinds of crazy things, and you had to react to it," Massey recalled. "I seem to have the personality that was required to work with a clown."
Chasing adventure is nothing new for Massey, and she said the time she spent sailing with her family from 1997 to 2005 left her wanting more, but that doesn't mean she’s going to give up the roots she has planted in Steamboat.
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"I intend to be in the community volunteering," Massey said. "I love the (Routt) County Fair. The problem with my job was trying to figure our where my personal friendships, values and inclinations stopped and where my job started because they were one and the same. Lucky for me the fair falls during hurricane season, and we plan to be in Steamboat."
The Masseys will be on the boat from January through June each year, and she wants to spend her time at sea working to become a better writer and food photographer and to test new recipes. She started a blog, lifeintheboat.com, 18 months ago, and will use her time to focus on expanding it.
"I've been frustrated that I don't have as much time to share things," Massey said. "Right now, the blog is really all about living in Steamboat and local food."
She hopes the blog will continue to evolve, promoting a conversation about food and serving as a reflection of her life whether it's in Steamboat or cruising around the Caribbean on her boat, Snowcat.