Curtis Johnson, Finish Carpenter

New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station
A photo of carpenter Curtis Johnson working with a router on a piece of wood at the UNH Durham campus

COLSA and NHAES finish carpenter Curtis Johnson got his start working in construction and carpentry in the New Hampshire seacoast area. The Rochester native began learning his trade while at Spaulding High School. After graduating, he immediately joined a framing crew. A short time later, he purchased his first apartment building and began buying, fixing up and managing apartments in the area.

“I’ve done framing, construction, drywall, painting and trim work almost my entire life,” said Curtis. “I bought my first apartment building when I was 20 and have bought, renovated and sold property over the years.”

 "I’ve done framing, construction, drywall, painting and trim work almost my entire life."

A photo of carpenter Curtis Johnson holding up a window frame that he fabricated at his shop on the UNH Durham campus.

In 2007, Curtis joined COLSA as a part-time carpenter. Initially intending to stay for just a short time, he enjoyed the community he found at the college and began as a full-time employee four years later. Now, on any given day, you’ll likely find him engaged in a new task around campus, whether it’s breaking down a lab, fabricating research tools, working on the farm buildings or helping set up events.

Position: Finish Carpenter
Years with NHAES: Started with COLSA in 2007; joined COLSA and NHAES as full-time employee in 2011.
Previous experience: Worked in construction, carpentry, framing and painting for 35 years.

What are some of your favorite parts of the job?

Curtis Johnson: For starters, I never get stuck doing one thing for too long. Right now, I’m doing carpentry. Later in the month, I might do some painting or help break a lab down. I get to work on a wide range of tasks, which really keeps it interesting. A few weeks ago, I was setting up for the COLSA Christmas party; now, I’m over in Cole Hall, breaking things down from the Thompson School and getting part of that building ready as an event space.

How do you support the Station’s research?

Curtis: One thing I do is fabricate some of the tools that researchers need for their studies. For example, we created a guillotine to cut squash and pumpkins in half for the cucurbits program. And I’ve built custom feed tubs for the nutrition research taking place at the dairy barns.

Another thing I help with is setting up labs for new researchers. Once a researcher leaves his or her lab, we go in and clean it up, do any repairs and modifications it needs, and then begin populating it with any equipment that we have that the new researcher could use. We try to save them as much money as we can so that they can use their funding for more specialized equipment. This way, they can usually hit the ground running once they start at COLSA.

What are some of the projects you’ve done at NHAES facilities?

Curtis: In the past year, I created some kiosks for some of the NHAES and COLSA farms and research centers. We fabricated the kiosks at the shop here and assembled them onsite. And on the board of each kiosk is a map of that facility and a description of the research taking place there.

What are some of your hobbies and interests?

Curtis: I really enjoy alpine skiing. Wildcat Mountain is one of my favorite places to ski, and I grew up skiing there.

In the summers, I camp with my family a lot. We have a travel trailer, and we spend part of our summers traveling and camping in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. One of my favorite places to camp at is the Saco River in North Conway. Floating down the river in August is pretty tough to beat!