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December 12, 2014


Incoming Cooperative Extension Director George PlaceDr. George Thomas Place II, who has extensive experience in agricultural teaching and research, has been named Catawba County’s new Cooperative Extension Director. He will begin his new duties on January 5, 2015. He succeeds Jeff Carpenter, who retired in 2013.

Catawba County’s Cooperative Extension, funded by the County in partnership with the State of North Carolina and the federal government, serves as the outreach arm of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University and School of Agriculture at North Carolina A&T State University. Its mission includes sustaining agriculture and forestry, protecting the
environment, maintaining viable communities, developing responsible youth and developing strong, healthy, safe families.

Cooperative Extension accomplishes this mission through a variety of educational programs and services including natural resources policy, animal production and marketing systems; crop production and marketing systems; family and consumer economics and education; food safety; leadership and volunteer development; nutrition and wellness.

As Catawba County’s Cooperative Extension Director, Place will oversee the delivery of all these services. He will supervise a staff of seven.

“My wife and I worked at North Carolina State University in Raleigh for several years and we were very eager to return to North Carolina,” Place said. “Working with Cooperative Extension in Catawba County was my top choice for several reasons: a strong and diverse agriculture sector, effective county government, and a Cooperative Extension team known for getting things done. Catawba County has some phenomenal projects such as the Eco-Complex and Hmong Demonstration Area that I look forward to working with. I am also eager to work for solutions to some of the challenges in Catawba County's expanding local food systems such as market access, beginner farmer development, food safety training, and farmland preservation.”

Place earned both a PhD and Master’s Degree in Crop Science from N.C. State, with a grade point average of 4.0 through both programs of study. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Plant Biological Sciences with a Chemistry minor, in combined studies at the University of Missouri Kansas City and the University of New Mexico.

Dr. Place has been working in Panama since May 2012 with the Peace Corps, where he and his wife, Soraya co-founded a project to improve food security and educate and empower the next generation of farmers and leaders. The program focuses on recruiting first-time college students who demonstrate a desire and potential to study agriculture at the University of Panama School of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. Place, who is fluent in Spanish, has also worked as Staple Crops Coordinator, building the capacity of that program and training volunteers. He wrote technical notes on staple crops and pest management and conducted training sessions in various parts of Panama.

While in graduate studies at N.C. State, Place served as a graduate teaching assistant in the areas of weed science and world population and food prospects. From 2005 through 2011, he served as a research assistant in weed management and soil fertility and then as research associate on a $1.2 million USDA funded study titled: Farmer Driven Breeding: Addressing the Needs of Southeastern Organic Field Crop Producers. The study focused on organizing farmers in the sharing of advances in growing major crops under organic conditions, and building ways for organic farmers to interact with public plant breeders.

“George impressed the interview panel with his passion for agriculture, creativity, and enthusiasm, as well as with his willingness to take on new challenges and stretch himself to learn new things” said Assistant County Manager Mary Furtado, who has day-to-day oversight of Cooperative Extension. “He is motivated by the mission of Cooperative Extension and will no doubt lead our local Extension Office forward in a way that will serve the public well.”

“My number one initial goal is to connect to the community and get to know our clients - farmers, consumers, families, and youth,” Place said. “Catawba County has an incredible Cooperative Extension Service staff and my first order of business will be to tune into all of the activities in which they are engaged. I look forward to discovering ways that I can support our CES staff in serving Catawba County and take the CES mission to the next level.

“I love working with programs that connect the public with all of the amazing things our local farmers do and produce,” Place added. “Farmers are at the foundation of society but their job is difficult, low paying, and often forgotten or misunderstood. Cooperative Extension Service is all about supporting agriculture and connecting others to all of the economic and health benefits that come from a local food system. I am motivated to be a part of this team.”

For more information on the North Carolina Cooperative Extension-Catawba Center, you may visit or call 828-465-8240.