With a goal to help keep Sampson County a leader in agriculture, Brad Hardison is leading Cooperative Extension into the new year.

Hardison, a horticulture agent, was recently selected to serve as the interim director for the organization. The appointment was made after previous director, Eileen Coite, made a decision to spend more time with farmers and producers and less time on administrative duties.

“Being the interim director for Sampson County Extension is a daunting task,” Hardison said. “I never realized how much behind-the-scenes work there was in this position. I’m humbled that our county administrators and NC State University selected me to lead our team during this transition.”

The six-month appointment will end in April. In the meantime, Hardison will continue his previous horticulture duties until a permanent director is named. Some of them include consumer and commercial horticulture and the extension’s master gardeners. Additional administration work now includes supervision, budgets, strategic planning, and oversight.

“During the last few years, Sampson County has slipped from the number one spot in total agriculture to number two behind our neighbor, Duplin County,” Hardison said, while talking about his goals in the position. “I’d like to lay the groundwork to see that we move back into the number one spot and continue to grow our agriculture sector. To do this, I have challenged our staff to grow their programs by 10% during the next six months. I have encouraged them to put boots on the ground and get out in the field with producers to see firsthand the challenges they are facing and how we can assist in solving those issues.”

Hardison is graduate of Midway High School. After earning his diploma, he received an associate degree in agriculture from Wayne Community College and a bachelor’s from Mt. Olive University in business administration and organization. Next, he earned a master’s from NC State in agriculture extension and education with a focus on horticulture.

He has been with Sampson’s Cooperative Extension for more than five years. As an extension agent, he enjoys working with people and producers, while offering solutions to problems they encounter. The northern Sampson County native worked in agriculture his entire life. Numerous days were spent chopping cotton, tobacco, and picking produce. Hardison’s family owned a small farm where they raised hogs, while growing other crops.

When he wasn’t working with his family, he was spending time at larger farms with various row crops. They contracted with the Department of Agriculture with the boll weevil eradication program from the early 80s until the 2000s. Most of that time was spent working in Sampson from Dunn to Ivanhoe monitoring fields.

In the mid-2000s, Hardison began working at Cherry Research Farm in Goldsboro conducting research on organic vegetable production, greenhouse vegetable production, row crops, agroforestry, alternative swine production, and beef production. In 2015, he came to Sampson County’s Extension office.

“If you are a farmer, rancher, ag business, homeowner, homemaker, youth, or elder in Sampson County, we have programs that can help you solve problems, become more efficient and profitable, manage your home landscape, inspire youth, learn how to grow, and preserve your own food, learn how to eat more healthy, help keep your farm in compliance with state regulations, and many more,” Hardison said. “We have a tremendously dedicated staff that can help in these areas and others.”

Coite, an extension agent with more than 20 years of service and leadership, is also looking forward to helping farmers in Sampson County. Some of her duties will involve education, agrotourism, community development, and emergency preparedness. She came to Sampson in 2013 to serve as director, after spending 13 years as a livestock agent with Wayne County’s Cooperative Extension. Before that position, Coite worked for Murphy Family Farms of Rose Hill for seven years as a farm manager and as a production training team specialist.

“I’m excited to be out in the community and on farms much more,” Coite said. “I have a tremendous appreciation for agriculture and this will allow me time to support our agricultural community.”

For more information about Sampson County Cooperative Extension and services, visit https://sampson.ces.ncsu.edu or call 910-592-7161.

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