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New Hall extension agent ‘never fell out’ of love with agriculture
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Joshua Presley is pictured during his second day on the job as the new Hall County Extension agent in Gainesville on Thursday, June 14, 2018, at the Hall County Extension office. Less than a year later, the post is open again. - photo by David Barnes

Hall County’s newest extension agent has never strayed too far from the farm.

Raised in rural Murrayville, where Joshua Presley’s family tended a small garden, he went to North Hall High School, known for its agricultural program.

And he spent summers at his brother-in-law’s cattle farm.

“I fell in love with (agriculture) and never fell out,” Presley said.

He started his new job in the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office at 734 E. Crescent Drive, Gainesville, on Wednesday, June 13. 

Presley, 22, who graduated from UGA in May, has started his job on a busy note.

“I’ve had quite a few interesting calls in the two days that I’ve been here,” Presley said in an interview Thursday, June 14. “I haven’t been able to go out, but people have been coming in.”

One woman brought him a blueberry branch, concerned that “it’s not producing berries like it did last year,” he said.

Another area resident was concerned about some kind of flying insect at her home.

“She was convinced it wasn’t a fruit fly, so I asked, ‘Do you have a picture?’” Presley said. “She said, ‘It’s too fuzzy. You won’t be able to tell.’”

The woman brought in the insect, which Presley examined under a microscope. He sent the bug to an entomologist.

“That’s an example of what we do,” he said.

Presley serves as a liaison between UGA and Hall County residents.

“We bring the newest information out of the university and disperse it among the population,” he said.

“You cover a lot of ground, with a whole multitude of people from different walks of life,” Presley said. 

His job involves setting up programs — one resident has requested a workshop on lawn maintenance — and staying in touch and working with agricultural groups, such as Hall County Master Gardeners.

Presley’s office also offers soil and water tests.

“My biggest passion is keeping kids interested in agriculture,” he said. “I think that’s something we kind of miss sometimes getting in our schools. Every Hall County elementary school has a garden or garden program, so I think that’s great, but I think there’s an opportunity with older kids.”

Otherwise, “I’m at my desk and by my phone to answer questions that come about,” Presley said.

The job had been vacant since November, when his predecessor, Michael Wheeler, was fired after a substance in his desk tested positive for cocaine, according to an incident report at the time. UGA police reported there was “insufficient evidence to pursue a criminal charge.”

Presley, who said he didn’t necessarily set out to be an extension agent when he went to UGA, “saw an opportunity” to pursue the job and things “worked out really well.”

“The timing was right,” he said.

After a series of interviews, Presley was chosen for the job.

“My biggest goal for the first couple of months is to be the face with the name — to go out and shake hands,” he said. “That interaction takes time and investment. … I’m not meant to sit in this office.”

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