08/23/07 — Pitzer promoted by state

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Pitzer promoted by state

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on August 23, 2007 1:45 PM

Cherry Research Farm fixture, supervisor Eddie Pitzer is moving on. But despite 30 years of service, he's not retiring.

As of Tuesday, he is the new director of the Research Farm Division of the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Appointed by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, Pitzer will now be responsible for overseeing all 18 of the department's agricultural research stations across the state as they continue to look at new crops, production techniques, conservation efforts and animal husbandry.

He is taking the place of Dr. Sandy Maddox, who retired Aug. 1.

It's a move that while obviously exciting, Pitzer said, also is slightly bittersweet.

"After working at Cherry Research Farm for the past 30 years, leaving there is very much like leaving home," he said.

Arriving in 1977 as assistant supervisor straight out of N.C. State University, Pitzer, 53, helped guide the facility through its transition away from serving as a working farm for Cherry Hospital, to its current role as one of the pre-eminent research farms in the state.

"We've built quite a nice program up at Cherry," he said. "A lot of people contributed to it, but I've had a small role in it, yes."

He was promoted to Cherry Farm supervisor in 1999 when Rick Sasser retired.

But now, he explained, is simply a good time to move on to a new challenge.

"We had been in some discussions, and I was asked if I'd be interested in this position, and I was," he said. "I don't have any major changes to make. We're just going to continue providing the same services we always have."

Picked because of his experience and abilities, Pitzer is expected to do a fine job leading the division, Troxler said.

"Eddie has 30 years of experience. He understands the importance of research in helping North Carolina farmers meet the many challenges they face," he said.

Tops among those, is the need to help preserve family farms and find new, sustainable and profitable methods of farming.

It's one of Pitzer's areas of expertise as Cherry Research Farm is the host of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, which focuses on the development of environmentally, economically and socially sustainable farming through a diverse mix of field crops, animals, horticulture crops and non-traditional enterprises.

He's also expected to utilize his experience working with researchers from N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University to help maintain smooth relations, despite some recent controversy when legislators introduced a bill to put the research division under the state's university system.

"With the diversity we have in agriculture in North Carolina and his experience in Goldsboro, Eddie is the perfect fit to lead the division right now," Troxler said.

But despite the fact that Pitzer began work at his position on Tuesday, he wanted to let Wayne County know that he's not abandoning Cherry.

"In a sense, yes, I'm leaving Cherry as far as the day-to-day operations, but I'll still be heavily involved in the programs and looking at the needs of it and the entire research system," he said. "And there's still some projects going on at Cherry I want to help complete."

Neither will he be leaving Wayne County's agricultural community behind.

Owner of a small family farm near Fremont, he serves as secretary/treasurer of the Wayne County Livestock Development Association, president of the Wayne County Cattleman's Association and member of the Wayne County Extension Advisory Council.

"I'm going to be commuting," Pitzer said. "I hope to continue some of the work I've been doing in the community."