A Nontraditional Path to Academic Success

Jonathan Moore taking a selfie in the field with a tractor

After over a decade of balancing work, family life and classes, Jonathan Moore, a research specialist in the Small Grains Extension and Official Variety Testing program, will graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree in extension education.

This is Moore’s second degree from NC State. In 2008, he completed a two-year degree in horticultural science management with a concentration in agribusiness management through NC State’s Agricultural Institute

“I’m nearing 20 years at NC State,” says Moore. “I have a lot of pride in NC State. I love the fact that I work for the university, and the work I’m doing is meaningful to people.”

Discovering Extension

A Stokes County native, Moore discovered his passion for agriculture on his grandfather’s tobacco farm.

“I remember growing up on the farm, especially playing in the barns and riding tractors,” Moore says.

His passion was fueled while working on a golf course in high school, where he discovered an interest in turfgrass.

“I wanted to one day pursue a career in turfgrass. I just loved being outside working in that environment.”

A view of someone riding a tractor in a field with mountains on the horizon

One of his coworkers, an NC State alumnus, urged Moore to consider studying there. He enrolled in the two-year degree program with AGI while taking courses that counted toward a bachelor’s degree, giving him a head start on continuing his education. He also learned about NC State Extension after enjoying his field and lab studies.

“I came to find out that I could work in Extension and still perform research and provide knowledge to people,” Moore says.

A Hard-Earned Degree

After graduating in 2008, Moore worked at several different companies as a contract employee, including Syngenta, BASF and Medicago. After two years of hard work, he decided to return to school for his bachelor’s degree while still working full time. When he met his wife, and they had children, he took time off to focus on family.

The Moore family standing in woods together

“I never forgot about my degree or gave up on it,” says Moore. “I just had to take a break for a while.”

In 2019, Moore started his role with NC State’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, working with the Official Variety Trials program for several different crops, including corn, soybeans and wheat. Moore travels across the state not only to care for the crops and collect data but also to work with growers and Extension staff and agents.

“I enjoy sharing the knowledge and resources,” says Moore. “I hear firsthand how growers rely on the data we provide to select varieties for their farm that they believe will help them increase their yields and their profits. It’s an important job that I take a lot of pride in.”

One year ago, Moore decided it was time to finish his bachelor’s degree. With his kids older now, he was able to dedicate more time to his classes. He’s also thankful that his supervisors, Angela Post, an Extension specialist in small grains, and Ryan Heiniger, the program director for the Official Variety Testing program, are supportive and flexible.

Now, Moore has his sights set on earning his master’s degree in agricultural and extension education, hopefully starting this spring.

“It’s not a traditional journey, but it’s been a journey, and it’s starting to come full circle,” says Moore. “It’s kind of cool to be doing what I thought I would be doing when I was 8 years old.”

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.