‘Farm boy at heart’: Suffolk native new ag agent

Published 10:32 pm Friday, August 26, 2016

By Cal Bryant

Special to the News-Herald

Advice is always better received when it comes from someone with knowledge.

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With that in mind, Hertford County farmers are welcoming Suffolk native Josh Holland with open arms and ears.

Holland began his new duties Aug. 1 as the agricultural agent assigned to the Winton office of North Carolina Cooperative Extension. The 27-year-old arrives in Hertford County armed with knowledge obtained both by getting his hands dirty on the family farm near Suffolk and through his agricultural studies at Virginia Tech University. He also brings experience from the retail side of agriculture.

“I can talk farming because I’ve lived it,” Holland said. “The college education teaches you the science end of the equation and all the highly technical material, but there’s nothing that can replace the experience you gain by growing up and living on a farm.”

Holland grew up on the family farm in southwestern Suffolk. He is a 2007 graduate of Lakeland High School and went on to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in crop and soil environmental sciences from Virginia Tech in 2010. Two years later, he earned his Master of Business Administration from Liberty University.

“Our family farm is basically cotton and soybeans now, roughly 1,300 to 1,400 acres. We use to grow about 600 acres of peanuts every year,” said Holland, who worked alongside his father, Craig Holland, and grandfather, Frank Holland Jr.

After graduating from Virginia Tech, Holland began his professional career in retail sales of agricultural products — selling chemicals, seeds and fertilizer with Meherrin Ag & Chemical based in the Northampton County town of Severn.

“I worked in sales for them in the Elizabeth City area,” Holland said. “I left there when a sales position opened in Branchville, VA. Then a position opened in management at the home office in Severn and I took the job as Seeds Coordinator.”

In the latter position, Holland directed seed sales logistics throughout Meherrin’s 29 offices from Delaware to Georgia.

He left the retail side of agriculture due to his passion to share knowledge about what he had learned over the course of his life on a farm and in college.

“I enjoy the educational side of this business, I guess that’s what led me to pursue a job with Cooperative Extension,” he noted. “I felt like I was able to educate and encourage growers when I was in retail, but I felt like I wanted to move a step further on the educational side of things … to focus on key topics in the industry, whether it’s weed management, weed resistance, fertility management. It seems like every day there are different technologies coming out, and it’s my job to keep the growers up to date on the latest and greatest technology.”

He stressed the importance of keeping farms alive and well.

“Those in the agricultural industry represents less than 2 percent of the world’s workforce, but yet they feed the entire world,” he said. “It’s vital to our industry and to our livelihood to make sound decisions and profitable decisions to keep agriculture sustainable and be environmentally conscious as well,” he said.

Even though Holland is new to Hertford County, he envisions developing a strong relationship with other local agriculturally related agencies, to include Soil and Water Conservation, Soil Science and Forestry.

“There are so many facets to agriculture, so it’s key that all of us interact,” he said. “We all know that farmland is decreasing in acreage, but yet farmers still have to grow products that feed and clothe the world. We need to work together to adapt so we can overcome any obstacles or hurdles. Together, we can make it work.”

Spoken just like a true farmer.

To contact Holland, call Hertford County Cooperative Extension at 252-358-7822.