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Taking the natural approach

Published: 07/25/2019 9:15AM
By: booner

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Jazmond Carter, a Fort Valley State University alumnus, is a district conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

By Russell Boone Jr.

Jazmond Carter, a native of Hartwell, Georgia, graduated from Fort Valley State University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental soil science. In 2012, he earned a master’s degree in public health from FVSU.

He currently serves as the district conservationist for the Pine Mountain District of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Stationed in Buena Vista, he is responsible for maintaining all conservation programs in Muscogee, Marion, Harris, Chattahoochee and Talbot Counties.

Prior to his current assignment, Carter briefly worked as a research technician at FVSU before moving on to the NRCS office in Sylvania. In Sylvania, he served as a soil conservation technician. Shortly after he moved to Valdosta to become a soil conservationist. He then moved to Eastman where he worked as the district conservationist for the Central Georgia District.

He takes time out of his schedule to answer a few questions about how FVSU prepared him for his position with the NRCS.

What are your responsibilities as a district conservationist? At the NRCS, we attempt to assist private landowners, mostly farmers, with installing and implementing practices to conserve natural resources.  I have to work closely along with supervisors in the district by helping them address resource concerns. I supervise a total of five employees (four soil conservation technicians, one district program assistant) and work out of three office locations in Columbus, Hamilton and Buena Vista.

Why did you decide to enroll at FVSU and major in an agricultural field? I didn’t have a major in mind when I decided to attend FVSU. My assistant principle in high school (Hart County High) was a Fort Valley graduate, and he knew the 1890 program liaison who was also a FVSU graduate. They both knew Dr. Mark Latimore Jr., a professor in the College of Agriculture (at the time), and suggested I meet with him when I arrived on campus. It was one of the best meetings I ever had. He advised me that majoring in agriculture would be a good opportunity for me and that started my career in agriculture.   

Were you raised on a farm? No. I had no agriculture background at all prior to attending Fort Valley.

Did you participate in any extra-curricular activities or a member of clubs, organizations, etc.)? I served as president of the Agri-Demic Forum from 2005-2007 and was a member of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS).

Did you intern? Yes. I interned with the NRCS in Abbeville, South Carolina for two summers before working with Fort Valley as a research technician.

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Carter shares a moment with a client during a field visit. 

What is the main impact you hope to have on a client when you discuss natural resources? The first thing is make people aware of our natural resources. Most people don’t understand that our natural resources aren’t infinite, and we are going to use them up. If I can get a farmer or landowner to understand that we have to be more conservative with our approach toward natural resources so our kids and their kids can use them.

For you, what is the most successful way to develop a trustworthy relationship with a client? You have to be a good listener. Each individual landowner is going to have a different situation, and there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ when someone comes to the office. Everybody’s financial situation and land or soil type is not the same. You have to really be aware, listen to what each individual farmer has to say, then address whatever their resource concerns are and specifically cater to their needs.

What things did you learn at FVSU that apply to your job at NRCS? The work ethic that you learn while you are an undergraduate. When you get into a college environment, it requires a lot of accountability, determination and hard work. I was able to harness all of those skills on campus and I apply those things every day in my career to make sure that I remain successful in what I’m doing.    

What would you tell a person if they asked you about pursing a degree in agriculture and the program at FVSU? First, they would need to seek out people that could help them. Make sure they can come up with a plan as to what they want to do in agriculture.  Agriculture is such a wonderful career to pursue. It’s one of those careers that won’t go away because we all have to eat. The career opportunity will always be there.

What are your future plans? I just want to keep climbing the USDA and NRCS ladder, maintain a successful rapport with my cohorts and represent my family and institution well through this agency.