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From Rural Roots to Extension Excellence

Growing up surrounded by cattle and the Christmas tree industry in Ashe County, Alex Kissinger developed a profound connection to agriculture. This passion for farming grew during high school, his undergraduate program at NC State, and persisted throughout his career and ongoing education as a graduate student.

In high school, Kissinger was actively involved in FFA, where he focused on developing his Supervised Agricultural Experience project around a small egg business. His agriculture education teacher encouraged him to apply to NC State. Choosing the Prestage Department of Poultry Science, he successfully completed his bachelor’s degree.

Reflecting on his undergraduate years at NC State, Kissinger acknowledges the challenges of leaving a rural community for the urban setting of Raleigh. He highlights the unwavering support he received from his peers and professors, particularly mentioning the influence of Lynn Worley-Davis, Kenneth Anderson, and Johnny Rogers. Worley-Davis was the first member of the poultry department that Kissinger met and the professor that taught his first class at NC State. Kissinger also mentions his positive experience as a teaching assistant for Anderson’s poultry judging course and credits Rogers’ beef management course for steering him towards a career in extension, a realization that unfolded over time.

Following graduation, Kissinger initially faced setbacks in securing a position with an agriculture-based company. However, he discovered career opportunities with N.C. Cooperative Extension, ultimately choosing this path. Kissinger began his career as the Empowering Youth & Families Program Program Assistant for Ashe and Alleghany Counties and eventually gained a full-time extension position. Simultaneously, he pursued a master’s degree in agriculture and extension education and will be graduating in December 2023.

Currently serving as the 4-H agent for N.C. Cooperative Extension in Wilkes County, Kissinger oversees youth development programs. Reflecting on his role, he emphasizes, “I believe the work of a 4-H Agent, or Extension Agent in general, is important because of the impact we have in our communities. Our mission is to provide education and technology that enriches the lives, land, and economy of North Carolina.” 

During his graduate studies, Kissinger acknowledges Misty Lambert, Joseph Donaldson, and Katherine McKee as notable professors who aided him in balancing distance education and full-time work. Throughout his professional journey, Kissinger attributes his inspiration to supportive individuals in his life, particularly his grandparents and church community, who have consistently encouraged him to pursue his goals.

Expressing his gratitude for N.C. Cooperative Extension, he emphasizes, “I also want to recognize the N.C. Cooperative Extension colleagues that have helped me in my career and that have become great friends over the years. They push me to be the best agent I can and have provided advice to help me with that”. 

Looking ahead, Kissinger aspires to continue working with N.C. Cooperative Extension, fueled by his passion for the diverse tasks and interactions inherent in extension work. He also contemplates pursuing another master’s degree, potentially in animal or poultry science, affirming, “I enjoy working with Extension because of the variety of work we get to do as well as the people we interact with regularly through our work.”