New extension agent takes on Wayne County field crops job
By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 14, 2012 1:46 PM
John Sanderson, the new North Carolina Cooperative Extension agent for field crops, examines a wheat field for storm damage along Patetown Road.
John Sanderson, 55, a native of the Four Oaks community in Johnston County, has been hired as the new field crop agent for the Wayne County Cooperative Extension Service.
It is the first time that slot has been filled since former field crop agent Kevin Johnson became Extension Service director last summer. Johnson has continued to handle those duties.
"I have not been able to do it to maintain the level of work and be as available to farmers as I had been before," Johnson said. "It is going to be real nice. He is going to have all crops, but I am going to keep tobacco. I want to have some time and interaction still in the field. Anything else that grows, he is going to have."
There were concerns early on that state budget cuts would eliminate the position, prompting Wayne County commissioners to campaign for it to be filled. Commissioners cited the importance of the position to the county's multimillion-dollar agriculture industry.
Sanderson, whose first day on the job was May 2, has 30 years of experience as a researcher and product specialist in the agriculture chemical and seed industry.
Johnson said Sanderson's background in agriculture chemicals was a "big bonus."
"He is field ready," he said. "He is ready to hit the road running. John, we can just turn him loose, and he is good to go. Somebody right out of school, there is a big learning curve that John already knows. We were looking for somebody like John with experience because it is Wayne County.
"It is one of the top agricultural counties in North Carolina by far. We have traditionally had strong programs, and we wanted to continue that."
Sanderson already knows some of the area growers through his previous job, but his first few months will be spent trying get to know the people and becoming familiar with the county, Johnson said.
"John will provide educational opportunities for our growers so that we can keep agriculture profitable," Johnson said. "We are going to make sure that our growers know the best varieties, know what products to use to have the highest yields to be profitable.
"As the field crop agent you go out and help solve problems. You do a lot of that making sure you properly diagnose diseases, insects. If there are soil issues, be it nutritional, pH, nematodes, we try to solve those issues and come up with good recommendations."
Sanderson will also be responsible for pesticide education.
"We have over 500 licensed pesticide applicators in Wayne County," Johnson said. "He will be providing the training.
"John was a researcher. After he got his products, he had to educate the sales staff. Now he is going to be educating the growers."
Sanderson is a graduate of South Johnston High School and received his bachelor's and master's degrees in agriculture education from N.C. State University.
While at NCSU, he worked in the Extension Service's wheat science program. Sanderson said his new job is similar to the work he did there.
After graduating, Sanderson worked for Rohm and Haas, an agriculture chemical company that was later bought by Dow. He later worked with Bayer Crop Science.
Sanderson's wife, Stephanie, is a registered nurse at Rex Hospital in Raleigh. They have two daughters, Anna, a third-grade teacher at Buies Creek Elementary, and Ashley, a student in the School of Textiles at N.C. State.