Last updated: October 15. 2013 4:12PM - 753 Views
By - cberendt@civitasmedia.com

Chris Berendt/Sampson IndependentSampson County Extension Service agents James Hartsfield, Della King and Lethia Lee were recognized during a recent commissioners meeting for honors they achieved at the state and national level.
Chris Berendt/Sampson IndependentSampson County Extension Service agents James Hartsfield, Della King and Lethia Lee were recognized during a recent commissioners meeting for honors they achieved at the state and national level.
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Three members of the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Service staff were honored recently at their respective associational meetings, with two of Sampson’s own recognized among the state’s top agents.

Eileen Coite, Sampson Cooperative Extension Service, lauded the award-winning agents, honored at a recent meeting by the Sampson Board of Commissioners for their state and national accomplishments

“It’s always a pleasure for the Sampson County board to recognize special achievement,” said Board of Commissioners chairman Billy Lockamy.

Della King and James Hartsfield recently received recognition at the National Association of County Agricultural Agents Annual Meeting and Professional Improvement Conference. Leitha Lee received the Extension Teamwork Award and the Community Partnership Award from the N.C. Association of Extension Program Assistants, Associates and Technicians (NCAEPAT).

Both the national and state Associations of County Agricultural Agents recognize honorees each year for the Distinguished Service Award and the Achievement Award, and Sampson had agents take home awards in both categories.

King was the recipient of the Achievement Award from the N.C. Association of County Agricultural Agents and the National Association of County Agricultural Agents for excellent performance by an agent with less than 10 years of service. King provides education to home gardeners, master gardeners, landscape and nursery professionals and Sampson County’s youth and was lauded “for her enthusiasm and work ethic.”

Hartsfield received the Distinguished Service Award from the state and national associations. DSAs are the most prestigious awards presented by both associations, and agents earning this performance award must have more than 10 years of service with Cooperative Extension and be recognized as doing an “exceptionally good job.”

DSA honorees are representatives of the top 2 percent of the association membership as chosen by their peers and the Directors of Extension in their respective state, based on noteworthy accomplishments of each honoree. For the Achievement Award, each state can select up to 2 percent of their membership for this award.

This year, there were 59 DSAs awarded across the nation, three being from North Carolina, including Hartsfield. There were 57 AA recipients across the country, with two in North Carolina, one being King.

“So two of the five North Carolina award winners in these categories this year are employees of Sampson County Cooperative Extension,” assistant county manager Susan Holder said in introducing the honorees for board recognition.

Hartsfield has been employed by the N.C. Cooperative Extension for 14 years, serving as an area farm management agent in Sampson and Duplin counties with special emphasis placed on providing training for small and limited resource farmers in record keeping and financial management. Extension officials said Hartsfield has played a major role in working with fellow agents and agricultural technicians in surrounding counties in conducting an annual Southeastern North Carolina Small and Part-time Farm Alternative Enterprise Tour.

Additionally, Lee was recently recognized at the NCAEPAT State Conference, held in Concord. Lee is an expanded Food Nutrition Education Program coordinator for the N.C. Cooperative Extension. The Extension Teamwork Award recognizes someone who has partnered with other Extension professionals such as those in 4-H, Family Consumer and Sciences and Agricultural areas. The Community Partnership Award recognizes similar partnerships in the community, which Lee did with Extension agents, Sampson Community College and Brooks Brothers Company to offer nutritional educational programs to the community.

“I am particularly proud of these three individuals … for the exceptional work they’ve done,” said Coite. “To have two of the five recipients of our Ag Agents awards in Sampson County, I think that’s very noteworthy. We’re proud of you all.”

Commissioners agreed.

“It’s good that our nation knows, and our state knows what we have known for quite some time — that they’re doing a wonderful job and the entire staff is doing a wonderful job,” said Commissioner Jefferson Strickland.

In addition to her Achievement Award, there was other news concerning King, who will be branching out within the local Extension Office.

Effective Oct. 1, the Sampson County Cooperative Extension named King as its new field crops agent. She has been the horticulture agent in Sampson since 2004 and is now transitioning to the field crops position.

“Della is switching gears on us a little bit,” said Coite. “She brings an extensive background to this position with her experience in horticultural science, agronomy, aquatics, pesticide education and farm safety.”

King was raised on a family farm in Duplin County, her family growing tobacco, corn, small grains, soybeans, cotton and hogs. She has an associate’s degree in horticulture from Sampson Community College, as well as a Bachelor of Science from Mount Olive College and a Master of Science from N.C. State University.

In a statement, King said she was “excited to have this opportunity to lead the field crops education in the largest agricultural county of North Carolina,” to which she brings experience, stability and a commitment of extending knowledge to Sampson County citizens, Coite noted.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at cberendt@civitasmedia.com.

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