06/10/13 — County's new field agent grew up on family farm

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County's new field agent grew up on family farm

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 10, 2013 1:46 PM

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Wayne County Cooperative Extension Director Kevin Johnson, left, and new field crop agent Tyler Whaley check some heads of wheat in a field on St. John Church Road. Whaley takes over the position after John Sanderson resigned in January. Whaley, who grew up on a family farm in Lenoir County, graduated in May from N.C. State University. The county cooperative extension office also has an opening for a livestock agent.

One of two key positions in the Wayne County Cooperative Extension Service office has been filled with the hiring of Kinston native Tyler Whaley as the county's new field crop agent.

Whaley, a May 2013 graduate of North Carolina State University with a bachelor's degree in agricultural science, recently began his new duties. He also has a minor in crop science and agricultural business management.

Whaley, 22, who grew up on a family farm, takes over the position left open since the January resignation of John Sanderson of the Four Oaks community in Johnston County.

As crop agent, Whaley will be responsible for helping to solve problems for farmers, including soil issues and ensuring that diseases and insects are properly diagnosed. Whaley also will be responsible for pesticide education.

Growing up on the farm, Whaley said he worked in row crops.

"Basically all of the crops that we are responsible for," he said.

He will be involved as well with the Extension Service's leadership and educational programs including the Carl Best Leadership program and the county's volunteer agricultural districts.

Whaley is an honor graduate of Parrott Academy in Kinston where he played baseball and basketball. He was also in honor programs at N.C. State.

Still open is the livestock agent position vacant since April when Eileen Coite stepped down after 13 years to become the first female Cooperative Extension director in neighboring Sampson County.

Ms. Coite worked extensively with the 4-H program and youth development. She also worked with forage crop production, livestock management and production, and animal waste management.

Extension Director Kevin Johnson, who has been handling the duties of both offices, said it will be at least July before he will know whether or not he will be able to advertise the livestock agent opening.

Johnson said he had asked officials at N.C. State about that position. However, those officials want to wait until the state budget is in place so that they will know what the level of funding will be, he said.

"We are one of the largest livestock production counties in North Carolina so I don't think it will be hard to justify advertising that position," Johnson said. "You look at the priorities in the state, and I think we would be a high priority."

But for now Johnson said he is excited to have Whaley on board.

For Whaley, the job is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

"I have been involved in production agriculture almost my entire life," Whaley said. "That was a good experience to help make this decision to stay involved in agriculture and get on with the Extension Service. Last summer, I did an internship with Lenoir County Extension with their agent.

"I liked it, and I had a good experience over there, and just really kind of kept searching the Internet, staying in contact with folks at the university level and local level. It just so happened this position became available. I like the location. It would be a good fit to get my master's degree at N.C. State. It is close to home."

Also, there are many similarities between Wayne and his home county of Lenoir, Whaley said.

Whaley will spend the first several months getting to know the people and crops he will be working with, Johnson said.

"It is in the middle of the busy season for farmers and agriculture, but it is a great time to get started," Johnson said. "Go ahead and jump in. There will be an orientation time get to acclimated to the county."

Agriculture is very diverse in the county so there are a lot of things going on, Whaley said.

"So we will be staying busy," he said. "I'm very excited about the opportunities. I think along the way we are going to have some good opportunities, and we are going to have some challenges. I think we have a good fundamental resource base with the university (N.C. State). We need to be proactive. We need to be on the leading edge as far as agriculture so that we can embrace the challenges that we are going to face.

"We can take unbiased university research data and bring it right here to Wayne County and help farmers make the right agronomic decisions to best benefit their needs. I always wanted to come back to eastern North Carolina. That is really the main reason that I wanted to go State, gain the knowledge, have experience with and get to know the specialists, build relationships, and just bring the knowledge back here to rural eastern North Carolina."