Extension agent hits the ground

Published 8:59 pm Saturday, December 15, 2012

After nearly two and a half years without a Virginia Cooperative Extension agriculture and natural resources agent in Suffolk, local farmers can breathe a sigh of relief.

“We’re really happy about it,” said Joe Barlow, a farmer and former member of City Council. “We’ve been waiting to fill that position.”

Barlow referred to Marcus Williams, the new agent. Williams cut his agricultural teeth in Suffolk as a 4-H member and Future Farmers of America participant at Nansemond River High School.


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“It was a great opportunity to give back to the community that started my love for agriculture,” said Williams, who has been on the job for almost two months now.

After leaving Nansemond River, Williams went to Virginia State University on a football scholarship. He later completed internships specializing in sweet corn and cut flower production and also worked as an agricultural lab technician.

It was working at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Suffolk’s Holland area that inspired him to become an Extension agent. He got to meet agents throughout a large part of the state as a soybean rust and aphid scout.

He then worked at the Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, Tenn., before joining the Extension team in Suffolk.

“I’ve experienced a little bit of everything so far,” Williams said.

He said his main goals are to educate everyone about how agriculture is relevant to them, no matter where they live in Suffolk; to help farmers extend the growing season and make their operations profitable and sustainable; and to spread the knowledge about Suffolk’s agricultural diversity.

“The city of Suffolk is very diverse in its agriculture needs,” Williams said, citing everything from row crops to goat’s milk being produced in Suffolk. “Really, it’s a whole world of things.”

Since starting work in Suffolk, Williams has dealt with everything from questions about alpacas and community-supported agriculture farms to soil testing and land assessments, proving that agriculture affects everyone.

“I tell people, no matter if you live in Burbage Grant or Whaleyville, agriculture is relevant to you,” he said.

To contact Williams, call 514-4332.