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‘Secret agent’ Martha Mobley featured in national magazine

Martha Mobley headshot
Martha Mobley

Modern Farmer magazine calls her a ‘secret agent.’ But for the agricultural community in Franklin County, Martha Mobley’s work is no secret. She’s a go-to resource for expertise ranging from horses and forestry to livestock and local foods.

Modern Farmer saluted Mobley and the seven other agents “who just might be the most important, least celebrated civil servants in the United States.” Mobley was recognized for her wide-ranging knowledge and tireless efforts. As farmer Rebecca Larkin-Martinez told the magazine, Mobley’s “breadth of knowledge is absolutely insane. I’ll never understand where she gets her energy.”

Mobley has worked for Cooperative Extension for 28 years, all in her home county. She holds bachelor’s degrees in animal science and food science as well as a master’s in adult and community college education from NC State. She recently answered a few questions about her experiences with Cooperative Extension.

Why did you choose to work for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State?

“I began my work after college with the food industry in the Raleigh area, both Keebler and Kibun corporations. I took a $10,000 decrease in salary in leaving the food industry and joining the Extension Service in 1988.

“My late husband, Steve Mobley, was the agricultural agent in Franklin County in 1986-88, when he took a promotion with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as the state’s horse marketing specialist. That is how we met, through Cooperative Extension. He worked for two years as an Extension agent before moving on.

“My farm family were early believers and followers of [what used to be called the] N.C. Agricultural Extension Service. They moved to the family farm in Franklin County (Mapleville Community) in 1911, raising livestock, seed corn, seed tobacco, soybeans, forage crops, and timber land. As a matter of fact, my aunt had her home designed by the Cooperative Extension Service, as the “ideal” ranch-style home back in the 1950s. She still has those floor plans, designed by the Cooperative Extension! …

“I also had wonderful ag agents as a longtime 4-H’er. … I saw what they did, and their encouragement and support allowed me to shine as a 4-H’er, traveling to 4-H Congress in Chicago, county and state demonstrations, animal science (steer) projects (and) 4-H Citizenship events in Washington, D.C.”

How does your work transform challenges into opportunities?

“‘When one door closes, another opens,’” is my philosophy. My late husband also encouraged me to “never give up – to just keep swimming.” I love to help make my clientele’s dreams come true. For example, by giving them the knowledge they need to be successful. If they don’t have the funds, let’s find the funds (grants, donation, etc.) to help them purchase a flock of sheep, build fences, etc. Then let’s build those fences correctly for the long term.

What stands out about your Extension clientele?

I LOVE the very diverse folks I work with … always have. Most are very supportive of the programming we provide them.  Most are honest and straightforward, with no hidden agendas.”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“To stay true to myself, work hard in my job (it’s definitely NOT an 8-to-5 job!), and treat others with kindness and openness. I am here to help!

“My advice to others in Extension: When an opportunity arises, TAKE IT! Don’t wait for tomorrow. You probably will not get a second chance.”

–D. Shore