Beyond doubt, the great gains in agriculture over the past 150 years would have been impossible without the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862 that established land grant colleges and the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 that set up the Cooperative Extension Service. It’s a given that research and Extension are vital to farming.
Conducting research to find the tools to battle pests and build yields then bringing that knowledge to the farm has made U.S. agriculture the envy of the world. Indeed, sound science is vital, but even more critical is the passion of the experts that work in ag research and Extension. The power of passion was driven home to me after interviewing North Carolina State University Extension Specialists Dominic Reisig, Charlie Cahoon, and Wes Everman.
Reisig is a North Carolina State Extension entomologist. He told me he was fascinated by insects ever since he was a five-year-old kid growing up in the dessert of southern California. His interest in bugs never wavered. He was educated in entomology and moved to North Carolina to work for North Carolina State after earning his Ph.D. from the University of California Davis in 2009.
North Carolina State Extension Weed Specialist for Cotton and Corn, Charlie Cahoon, grew up on a farm in Hyde County. A student job one summer at North Carolina State with well-known Weed Scientist Alan York sparked Cahoon’s passion for weed science. He would go on to earn a Ph.D. in weed science and in 2018 he succeeded Alan York upon his retirement.
Back in 2002, when Wes Everman was planning to pursue a Ph.D. in weed science, a number of professors discouraged him. They told him it was a dying field and he would have a tough time landing a job come graduation. At the time, Roundup Ready herbicides were taking over the world. But Everman didn’t surrender his passion. The Iowa native did indeed earn a Ph.D. in weed science from North Carolina State and has been the Extension weed specialist for soybeans and small grains since 2011.
Everman, Cahoon and Reisig and other Extension specialists and researchers I have known over the years all share a common denominator of passion for what they do and a passion to help the farmers they serve. This passion drives them to succeed.
They certainly bring knowledge and expertise to their fields. But more importantly they bring passion for what they do, just as the Wright Brothers brought passion to make airplanes a reality and Thomas Edison brought passion to deliver the electric lightbulb. This great passion is just as valuable as sound science.