For CALS alum and Extension agent Andrea Gibbs, life has led a lot of unexpected places.
She’s a small-town girl who grew up in the heart of the Piedmont and earned a CALS degree in animal science. Now, Gibbs works with field crops and lives near the sea. She’s been a Hyde County Agricultural Extension Agent for about three years, and has one piece of advice for students: explore.
Why did you want to work for Extension?
Extension has been an awesome organization to work for. Every day is different, you never know what kind of calls you’ll receive. It is such a blessing to be able to help farmers of Hyde County be as productive as possible, while being a completely unbiased, research-based source of information.
For example, there’s an older farmer here who doesn’t have family who farms, so he’s learned things on his own, really leaned on Extension to help him with a lot. He called me one day last summer because he had worms in his soybeans. I went out and showed him what to look for, what the thresholds were for him to spray. And that afternoon, I saw him out there spraying. It felt good that I could go out there and teach him something he didn’t know how to do when he’d been farming a long time. It’s really cool to see those moments when you’ve helped somebody, when you’ve given them advice and see them actually take it — because you know if they don’t think it’s good advice, they’ll just ignore it.
What has been your favorite day at work so far?
I would have to say that the day of the 2016 Blackland Farm Manager’s Tour was one of my favorite days at work so far. It felt awesome to see the hard work myself, the Blacklands ag agents and so many other people come together and run so smoothly!
The tour brought nearly 400 people to Hyde County from across North Carolina, as well as several other states, to learn more about corn and soybean production. We had twelve research test plots at the tour site that covered varieties, soil fertility, planting depth, plant population and fungicide use. I coordinated with the host farmer, Extension specialists and other Blacklands ag agents to ensure the tests and the entire field day ran smoothly. Results from the tests plots were assembled into a book and distributed to farmers at winter meetings in the area. Here’s a video from the tour, if you’re interested.
What got you interested in agriculture?
I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I’ve always been in love with agriculture. I love to plant a seed and watch it grow. My grandpa farmed in Illinois, so I always say it skipped a generation.
When I attended NC State, my plan was to go to vet school and work with beef cattle, but the good Lord had other plans. After working for a contract research company doing research on vegetables and field crops, and another job doing crop consulting, I knew I wanted to go in another direction.
What’s your advice to current CALS students?
Keep an open mind and explore your options. I wish I had ventured out from animal science and got a minor in something like crop science. You never know where life will lead you!