Cook County grows horticulture team with new bilingual educator

URBANA, Ill. – Whether you’re growing backyard fruits and vegetables, tending a few well-loved houseplants, or responsible for landscaping, gardening is a challenge. The University of Illinois Extension team of horticulture experts connects communities around the state with research-based resources and best practices to help everyone grow.

In August, German Cutz joined Illinois Extension as a horticulture educator serving northern Cook County. He will create and lead research-based outreach programs on food production, urban agriculture, sustainable gardening, home gardening, agribusiness, and a variety of other topics for the Chicago area and as part of Extension’s statewide team of horticulture experts.

“Dr. Cutz is a welcome addition to our team. As one of our three horticulture educators, his presence will add to our ability to serve Cook County’s 5.17 million residents,” says County Director Willene Buffett. “His previous urban agriculture, adult and community education, and bilingual teaching experience with Illinois and Connecticut Extension will enhance our ability to help Spanish-speaking populations and food insecure low-income families.”

As an Extension educator, Cutz will help communities in northern Cook County produce more local foods by providing educational programs on organic food production, business, and sustainable agriculture.

“Teaching horticulture to urban communities is a big challenge because people are often unfamiliar with this field,” says Cutz. “I want to counter the issues of food insecurity and food deserts by teaching urban residents how to produce fresh and healthy food.”

He looks forward to getting in touch with community organizations and leaders to better understand local needs and to increase the number of Master Gardeners from urban areas.

German has more than 20 years of experience working for Cooperative Extension Services in both Illinois and Connecticut. Most recently Cutz worked for University of Connecticut Extension as a Sustainable Families and Communities Educator where he led urban agriculture programs. Prior to that, he worked at Illinois Extension as a Spanish Language Programming Specialist where he translated Extension programs and website content.

Cutz received a Bachelor's degree in business administration from San Carlos University of Guatemala and agronomy training from the National Central School of Agriculture in Guatemala, focusing on vegetable production, sustainable agriculture, and soil conservation. 

He coordinated a $5.2 million United States Agency for International Development project on small farmer diversification systems for three years and worked with small farmers in Guatemala for eight years. He has a Master's from Ball State University in natural resources and environmental management, focusing on plants and soils. He also completed a second Master's and Doctoral degree in adult and community education from Ball State University.

Cutz is based in the Cook County Extension office in Arlington Heights and can be reached at cutz@illinois.edu or (847) 201-4176.

Extension educators and specialists connect every county in Illinois with university research through in-person and distance-learning programming and other educational outreach. They work to provide businesses, families, and agricultural producers with the practical tools and resources needed to solve problems.

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.