New extension agent hired for Southampton

Published 11:34 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2011


COURTLAND—After being vacant for more than two years, the agriculture and natural resources position at the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office in Southampton County will be filled by Chris Drake of Newsoms.

“Certainly, it’s been a position we have been very eager to fill for some time,” said County Administrator Mike Johnson. “We are delighted to have an agricultural agent on board.”

When extension agent Wes Alexander retired on March 1, 2009, he was not replaced because of state cutbacks and a hiring freeze. This was a concern to county officials because Southampton is one of the largest agricultural counties in the state.

After the state did some restructuring, Neil Clark was brought on board on July 1, 2010, to provide a presence for the extension agency.

The state on Oct. 7 announced a blueprint for moving forward with plans to reorganize the agency. In the 2010 budget bill, $5.5 million was eliminated for the agency and its administration was told to restructure and consolidate offices.

The extension office is funded equally by the federal, state and county governments.

As for Drake, he did his undergraduate and graduate studies at Virginia Tech, receiving a master’s degree in agricultural education with a concentration in crop and soil science in 2000. The 34-year-old since 2001 has been farming. He has about 17 acres of melons, pumpkins and vegetables on Sandy Point Farms.

Drake has also been doing boll weevil eradication contracting in Virginia and North Carolina and gypsy moth trapping.

When he begins working on Monday, July 25, he hopes to begin publishing bimonthly newsletters.

“Sending newsletters out to farmers and anyone that’s interested in what you have to say, and that would be more directed toward farmers and the people you’re trying to help,” Drake said.

Cooperative Extension disseminates to the public research and information developed at land grant universities, such as Virginia Tech and Virginia State University.

“Of course, it’s going to be different in every county because of the needs of the people there,” Drake said.

He also plans to supply articles and information for The Tidewater News.

“That would be more directed toward the general people, just kind of keeping people aware and abreast of issues coming up,” Drake said.

An example would be farmers beginning to spray cotton to defoliate.

“Just reminding people that it won’t kill you, and it stinks, but it’s not going to kill your dog and cat, fish and groundhog, sheep and goats, and all that,” he said.

Drake also will be heading the peanut and cotton awards in the county.

“We’ve already got a peanut award banquet, but it’s kind of by the (Peanut Growers

Cooperative Marketing Association) every year, but the extension office has done it in the past,” he said. “Something that I’ve wanted to do since the majority of the acres planted in the county is cotton this year, and were last year also, is a cotton awards banquet.”

A cotton awards banquet would be new for the county, Drake said.

“It’s been done in North Carolina but not in this county,” he said.

Because the county pays one-third of Drake’s salary, he feels it is his duty to keep the Board of Supervisors informed of the activities conducted at his office.

Drake also plans to stress pesticide recycling.