Farm boy at heart

Published 10:58 am Tuesday, August 23, 2016

WINTON – Advice is always better received when it comes from someone with knowledge.

With that in mind, Hertford County farmers should welcome Josh Holland with open arms….and ears.

Holland began his new duties Aug. 1 as the Ag Agent assigned to the Winton office of North Carolina Cooperative Extension. The 27-year-old arrives in Hertford County armed with knowledge obtained both by getting his hands dirty on the family farm near Suffolk, VA and through his agricultural studies at Virginia Tech University. He also brings experience from the retail side of agriculture.

Suffolk, VA native Josh Holland is the new Ag Agent for Hertford County Cooperative Extension. | Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

Suffolk, VA native Josh Holland is the new Ag Agent for Hertford County Cooperative Extension. | Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

“I can talk farming because I’ve lived it,” Holland said. “The college education teaches you the science end of the equation and all the highly technical material, but there’s nothing that can replace the experience you gain by growing up and living on a farm.”

Holland grew up on the family farm in the southwestern corner of the City of Suffolk – where Suffolk, Isle of Wight County and Southampton County meet. He is a 2007 graduate of Lakeland High School in Suffolk and went on to obtain a B.S. degree in Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences from Virginia Tech in 2010. Two years later he earned his Masters in Business Administration from Liberty University.

“Our family farm is basically cotton and soybeans now, roughly 1,300-to-1,400 acres; we use to grow about 600 acres of peanuts every year,” said Holland, who worked alongside his father, Craig Holland, and grandfather, Frank Holland Jr.

After graduating from Virginia Tech, Holland began his professional career in retail sales of agricultural products – selling chemicals, seeds and fertilizer with Meherrin Ag & Chemical based in the Northampton County town of Severn.

“I worked in sales for them in the Elizabeth City area,” Holland said. “I left there when a sales position opened in Branchville, VA. Then a position opened in management at the home office in Severn and I took the job as Seeds Coordinator.”

In the latter position, Holland directed seed sales logistics throughout Meherrin’s 29 offices from Delaware to Georgia.

“I handled all the purchase orders and also worked with the seed companies like Monsanto and Dow and order to seeds with no treatments on them and arrange for Meherrin’s seed treatment plant in South Carolina to apply the specialized treatments based individually for what the farmer in a certain area wanted,” Holland explained. “I didn’t have to run the treatment operation, just supply the info to the plant manager about the special treatment applications and number of units needed and the date needed. Once the order was shipped back to the warehouse in Severn, I was responsible for making sure it was delivered to the user.”

He left the retail side of agriculture due to his love to share knowledge about what he had learned over the course of his life on a farm and in college.

“I enjoy the educational side of this business, I guess that’s what led me to pursue a job with Cooperative Extension,” he noted. “I felt like I was able to educate and encourage growers when I was in retail, but I felt like I wanted to move a step further on the educational side of things…to focus on key topics in the industry, whether it’s weed management, weed resistance, fertility management; it seems like every day there are different technologies coming out and it’s my job to keep the growers up to date on the latest and greatest technology.”

Holland stopped short of referencing himself as an expert.

“It’s just sharing knowledge, sharing the information that comes down from Raleigh,” he said.

He stressed the importance of keeping farms alive and well.

“Those in the agricultural industry represents less than two percent of the world’s workforce, but yet they feed the entire world; it’s vital to our industry and to our livelihood to make sound decisions and profitable decisions to keep agriculture sustainable and be environmentally conscience as well,” Holland remarked. “If farmers and growers are able to do that and I’m in a position to go out and educate them on new practices and new ideas, then it’s a win-win for the entire world.”

Like it was in product sales, Holland said his new job is all about face-to-face interaction.

“I love that part of the job,” talking to folks and getting your hands dirty to help diagnosis a problem,” he said. “Cooperative Extension is a way to share ideas, share the highest quality of information, share success stories as well as sharing the practical application side of things; they all come together to make the farmer more sustainable and more profitable.”

As a young man, Holland came along at a time when technological advances had a great impact on the way a farmer works the fields.

“Traditionally, a farmer’s way of thinking is to make the best possible crop and make the most money for that crop by using every resource they can use to save money,” he stressed. “That’s where technology comes into play. There are tons of systems on the market today that allow farmers to utilize GPS mapping and rainfall metrics. They go in and look field-by-field with GPS maps and spot issues like nutrient deficiencies or chemical injuries. That allows farmers to be more efficient with their time. And that time is critical as I’m seeing more and more larger farming operations staffed by fewer and fewer workers.

“Now, most all farm equipment, especially sprayers, is GPS driven. It use to be a farmer had a good day if he could work 50-to-60 acres from sun-up to sun-down; now it’s more like a thousand acres a day if the ground is good to run on,” Holland added.

Seed has also changed to the point where it’s genetically enhanced to include herbicides and insecticides, again in an effort to help a farmer better manage his or her time.

“The biotechnology end of agricultural seeds is expensive, but it does cut down on the maintenance side of crop management and farmers can profit in the long run,” Holland noted. “What I have to do on my end of that is to stay ahead of the curve of all these biotech advances and share that information with the farmer.”

Even though Holland is new to Hertford County, he envisions developing a strong relationship with other local agriculturally related agencies, to include Soil and Water Conservation, Soil Science, and Forestry.

“There are so many facets to agriculture so it’s key that all of us interact,” he stated. “We all know that farmland is decreasing in acreage, but yet farmers still have to grow products that feed and clothe the world. We need to have work together to adapt so we can overcome any obstacles or hurdles. Together, we can make it work.”

Spoken just like a true farmer.

To contact Holland, contact Hertford County Cooperative Extension at 252-358-7822 or drop by the office at 301 Tryon Street in Winton.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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