Shane Curry says his favorite part of his job as a county Extension agent is helping people.
He has even been known to cut a few grape vines to help someone. "I don't normally offer pruning services but when the gentleman called for advice and I found out he's blind, there was no way I was going to say 'no' to that kind of request," said the Appling County ag agent. "He just had seven or eight vines. I would have still helped him if he'd had more, but I would have had to round up some help for me."
Since that day almost four years ago, Curry says he's made a friendship with the elderly man and his wife and visits them often. And yes, he still prunes their grapevines each year whether they ask him to or not.
Curry joined the Baxley office in February of 2011 after working as the county Extension ag coordinator and 4-H agent in Montgomery County for four years.
By working with Extension, Curry's following in the footsteps of his father, David, who was a county agent in Early, Baker, Montgomery and Toombs counties. (His dad is now retired.)
While watching his dad work as an agent, Curry was bit by the "ag bug." During high school, he scouted cotton and tobacco and as an ABAC student he worked with scientists on the Tifton campus.
His family owns a pecan and pine tree farm and he's grown various fruits and vegetables for roadside sales over the years. He also served four summers as a 4-H camp counselor; three at Rock Eagle and one on Jekyll Island.
"When people call or come by to see me, it's my job to help them find a solution to whatever ag problem they are dealing with," he said. "Whether it's 3,000 acres of cotton, a pond problem, or a plant in the landscape not growing well. My job is to help solve a problem that's important to a person. And sometimes even just going by to visit with someone means everything."
Curry enjoys working in what he calls a "tremendous ag county." Appling County has a farm gate value of more than $220 million and ranks in the top 10 percent in Georgia.
He also enjoys doing research and plot work and "ultimately finding better ways to do things that put more money in farmers' pockets and more food on our tables." He partners with UGA scientists and conducts multiple research trials in cotton, peanut, blueberries, pecans and soybeans each year. Curry's main research focus has been controlling nematodes in cotton and disease in peanut and producing high yielding soybeans. His research results in big money gains to farmers.
"In the nematode trial, for example, we saw as high as 400 pounds per acre yield increase in cotton. That's easily $250 to $300 profit per acre for farmers. When you figure that number across 1.5 to 2 million acres, the impact is significant to the farmers as well as our whole state," he said.
When he's not helping people one-on-one or conducting research, Curry is getting ready for programs, meetings, or field days. With the growing interest in pecan production, he coordinated a field day for pecan growers in the southeast part of the state. The Southeast Georgia Pecan Field Day is now held each August in Baxley and is well attended, attracting 200 or more.
"It's grown bigger than I ever thought and we plan on continuing to have the field day," he said. For his efforts in pecan production, Curry was awarded the H.C. Ellis Pecan Achievement award in 2013.
Curry still gets amazed by his job and the different questions people bring to him each day. "You know, one minute I can be with a farmer looking at a potential $100,000 loss because of some disease, and the next someone calls and wants to know if they should start growing kiwi fruit. Someone may want to know if I'll speak to their group, or what they should plant, or how to start farming," he said. Someone even brings me live snakes to identify. I may be at a national meeting about to give a presentation and looking at plant pictures emailed or texted to me to identify an ag related problem. These things often overlap. Most people don't realize, it's chaotic at times, but I love my job. As long as I'm helping people I'm happy!"
When he's not at work, Curry likes to go fishing, hunting, cheer on the Georgia Bulldogs, go to concerts, cook, travel, compete in barbecue contests and spend time with friends and family. He doesn't have a lot of down time, but that's the way he likes it.
"Life's too short to spend a lot of time resting. I can do that later," Curry said.
Visit the UGA Extension Appling County website for more information about local programs.
Published October 14, 2014
D. Shane Curry
Agriculture & Natural Resources
"When people call or come by to see me, it's my job to help them find a solution to whatever ag problem they are dealing with. Whether it's 3,000 acres of cotton, a pond problem, or a plant in the landscape not growing well. My job is to help solve a problem that's important to a person. And sometimes even just going by to visit with someone means everything."
- Shane Curry, Appling County ANR Agent