Introducing Dr. Daniel Tregeagle

Visiting the Roanoke-Tar Cotton Gin on the Dean’s New Faculty Tour

Daniel Tregeagle recently joined the faculty at NC State’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics as an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist with a focus on specialty crops and horticulture. His research interests focus on agricultural production, with a particular emphasis on investment issues. Below you can read his answers to some key questions.

What was your path to NC State?

I grew up in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, where I had no exposure to food production. The exception was annual visits to my aunt and uncle’s farm, the aptly named Tregeagle Coffee, on Tregeagle Road, Tregeagle, NSW. (Tip on pronouncing my last name: Treh-GEE-gull. It’s originally from Cornwall, England.) While I always enjoyed these visits, I never expected my career path would lead to studying specialty crop operations, like my relatives’ farm, for a living!

For my undergraduate degree, I studied Resource Economics at the University of Sydney. After graduating I worked briefly on water economics at the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences in Canberra (similar to the USDA’s Economic Research Service here in the US). In 2011, I moved to California for my PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Berkeley, where I studied the dynamic effects of replanting decisions on sugarcane production in Brazil and the theory of orchard replacement. 

After graduating in 2017, I worked for two years as a postdoc at UC Davis, studying the potential agricultural impacts from proposed changes to California’s pesticide regulations. 

The job here at NC State was my top choice during my job search last year. NC State’s ARE department has an outstanding reputation and the university as a whole is renowned for cutting-edge agricultural research. I jumped at the opportunity to work with talented colleagues on agricultural issues that were relevant to both the local and the international community. 

Also, to answer the question, “How did you get to NC State?” literally: The I-40 interstate. Over two weeks in July, my partner (Emma) and I drove from the start of the I-40 in Barstow, California to Raleigh, taking in the sights in each of the states along the way. We still need to visit Wilmington and see the other end. 

What do you look forward to working on over the next year?

My overall objective is to do research and extension that improves the sustainability of specialty crop and horticulture production, and the accessibility of produce to consumers, in North Carolina and beyond. I will work on this directly, by studying particular policies and technologies, and indirectly, by improving the tools economists use for these studies.

But where to start on the specifics? The opportunities have been coming thick and fast since I’ve arrived. I have joined many of my new colleagues in Horticultural Science in submitting grants to the USDA for research into biodegradable plastic mulches, as well as crops such as tomatoes, strawberries, and muscadines. Derek Washburn and I are working on updating the sweet potato crop budget for 2020, and I plan to update several other crops over the next year. My colleague, Zoë Plakias, from Ohio State, and I are working to make specialty crop supply elasticities more accessible for economic analysts. Finally, I look forward to working with Mike Parker and Tom Kon in Horticultural Science to adapt my theoretical work on the economics of orchard replacement into a practical decision making tool for orchardists in the state.

What are your impressions of NC State and North Carolina?

I’m delighted by how friendly and collaborative my colleagues at NC State are. Before arriving I had heard NC State has a reputation for purposeful, interdisciplinary work and I am now seeing it in action. For instance, in early October, Dean Linton hosted a tour of NC Agriculture for new faculty as well as his senior administrative team. We spent three days visiting agribusinesses and research stations in the eastern part of the state. By the end of the tour, we all had a deeper understanding of our new colleagues and their work. I have several potential collaborations with colleagues in other departments in CALS born out of conversations on that bus.

I’m impressed by how green and wet North Carolina is. Although much of the state is in a drought at the moment, it’s still lush relative to my previous experiences. I grew up in Sydney, Australia during the 10 year Millennium Drought, one of the worst in Australia since European settlement, and moved to California for grad school in 2011 at the start of one of the most intense droughts in that state’s recorded history. I hope the pattern doesn’t continue now I’m here! 

What is your favorite Howling Cow flavor?

Cookie Dough2. Growing up in Australia, I always wondered why Americans put cookie dough in their ice cream. Now I know; it’s delicious!