Tom Hroza is looking forward to improving agriculture in Sampson County and helping the community through North Carolina Cooperative Extension.
“I think it’s important for the economic growth of the county,” he said about Extension and farming. “One of the big growth industries is agriculture, in particular horticulture.”
The local extension agent for commercial horticulture officially moved into his office at the Sampson County facility earlier this month.
“I always loved horticulture,” Hroza said about dealing with the science and technology of plant cultivation ,such as fruit, vegetable and landscape production.
According to Cooperative Extension, commercial horticulture represents a fast-growing segment of the state’s economy.
“With horticulture, there are a lot of opportunities for small farmers to grow and expand,” Hroza said. “Anything like that can help the county or the state.”
Hroza previously worked in Duplin County and will serve both counties as an area agent for consumer and commercial horticulture.
His duties include looking after programs such as Master Gardener and Friends of Horticulture. Hroza will also help commercial growers, bramble production, the grain industry and ornamental/turf.
For 15 years, he operated a wholesale nursery landscaping business before joining the Extension Service. He also worked in the chemical and fertilizing fields.
“Those were two things that kind of led me here,” he said.
Hroza said growing food locally is very important for economic development. “When you spend money at home, it stays at home,” he said about money turning over in the community.
One of the challenges is to meet local demands.
“I think there are a lot of needs out here,” he said. “A lot of people are interested in horticulture.”
He will also work to get more people involved in the organization through the resources available. Hroza said he’s going to encourage more people to use science-based results to improve their gardening.
“I think there’s an interest in producing more food at home,” he said about urban gardening. “To work with these people to increase their output on a small acreage or plot, that would be one of my goals.”
Hroza said more people want to have healthier lifestyles.
“What better way is there to eat healthier than to grow it yourself or to buy it from a local farmer when you know what he’s doing with your food,” he said.
For Hroza, education is important.
“We all can learn,” the agent attested. “I can learn from other people and they can learn things from me.”
He graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in agriculture economics. While living in North Carolina, the Illinois native met his wife, Marilynn a graduate of Meredith College.The couple lives on a Duplin County which has been owned by her family for more than 270 years. They have two daughters, who are married.
Chase Jordan can be reached at (910) 592-8137 ext. 136. Follow us on Twitter @ SampsonInd