The Farm Institute in Katama has named Jonathan Previant as its new executive director. He brings to the institute a strong business background combined with a lifelong interest in agriculture.

Mr. Previant, 63, spoke to the Gazette over the weekend as he was driving north from Miami, Vineyard-bound for a fresh start on the farm. “I’m pretty excited about the opportunity and anxious to get to the Vineyard and get started,” he said.

He begins work on July 1.

Now 10 years old, the nonprofit Farm Institute offers a wide array of year-round education programs at the 200-acre Katama Farm in Edgartown, where vegetables, hay and livestock are grown and also sold.

Mr. Previant’s ties to the Vineyard began in the 1990s when he started coming during the summer with his wife, Island native Sundy Smith.

But even after 20 years of enjoying Island summers, he admitted that he knew nothing about the Farm Institute before he applied for the job. “It was a surprise and a pleasure to learn it existed on the Vineyard, and I was a little embarrassed I didn’t know anything about it,” he said. “The concept is not new but their implementation of it is very focused and refreshing.”

Raised in the suburbs of Milwaukee, he attended the University of Wisconsin; over the years his work has taken him to British Columbia, Minnesota, Iowa, Florida — and now the Vineyard. “It’s been an amazing journey,” he said. “Interestingly every one of those stops has something to do with farming.”

He said he bought his first pig and cow in 1974. Since then he has worked on a variety of farms, including a 500-acre farm with grain and livestock, where he helped develop software for balancing the diets of farms animals. His most recent job was consulting in international business development for a feed nutrition company.

“My practical experience, business management skills, experience with developing and opening markets has a lot of application,” he said. “The institute’s at a point in its history where it can benefit from doing more with land and facilities, which in turn expands teaching possibilities.”

He said he wants to build on what has already been accomplished at the farm, which he described as amazing.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to get to know the other farms and farmers, and try to find ways to work together,” he said.

Mr. Previant will be replacing Matthew Goldfarb, who left as executive director this spring after four years at the helm. Big shoes to fill?

“The previous director did a wonderful job with putting structure in place; I don’t see this as an I-need-to measure-up to what they’ve done; what they’ve done speaks for itself,” he said, adding:

“I think one of the things I can bring to the Vineyard is some extensive contacts in the larger agriculture world, and that opens the door to some resources and ideas.”

He is particularly enthusiastic about the growing relationship between the institute and the Island Grown Initiative, and the prospect of bringing another mobile slaughtering unit to the Vineyard. “Whether it’s a permanent structure or a portable unit, somehow we need to keep animals on the Island and not haul them someplace else,” he said.

Areas he hopes to expand include programs for disabled children and adults, with the help of his wife, whose background is in working with people who are disabled. “Extending programs with those who have those kinds of challenges is rewarding to everyone,” Mr. Previant said. “It’d be impossible for me to keep Sundy out. No doubt she’ll want — and get — an active volunteer role.” He continued:

“I’m not sure she’s touched the earth since I got the job offer. She’s very excited.” Mr. Previant and Ms. Smith have recently rebuilt a family camp on Seth’s Pond, a move that fits with Mr. Previant’s passion for hiking.

“Sundy’s introduced me to fabulous walking trails on the Island,” he said. Mr. Previant has three grown sons.

He said his first challenge will be learning the programs and getting to know staff. “They’re doing a lot of things right,” he said. “I don’t know enough to say there’s anything I want to change . . . I was really impressed with the quality of the staff. They’re going to make my job easy.”

His ideas include exploring organic field crops, expanding the pig herd, and maybe even starting programs a little earlier in the spring and continuing a little later in the fall than right now.

His other interests include music. “Music is very important for me; my iPod is overflowing,” he said. On his drive up from Miami, he said he started listening to African music, then jumped down to Brazil, up the Mississippi Delta for some blues, detoured to the hill countries with some bluegrass, and was looking forward to concluding his drive with Buddy Holly.”

Travels to the Philippines, Japan, Southeast Asia, Chile and Mexico have made him appreciate global foods, and there’s almost nothing he won’t eat. Food is a theme throughout his life, and his reading list naturally includes recent books on agriculture and sustainability.

“In agriculture, we haven’t done a very good job of telling our story,” Mr. Previant said. “I’m trying to understand what it is people are saying about us and take a better look.”

But first he is just excited to sit down and break bread with his new community.

“There’s so much to learn and so many people to meet,” he said. “I’m looking forward to hearing people’s stories, concerns and finding common ground.”