A Lifetime of Agriculture

by | Jan 5, 2022

We Are Agriculture is a year-long series that will highlight the hard-work done by employees across the Department of Agriculture. Chief Deputy Commissioner, David Smith, is one of those employees. Stay tuned each Wednesday here on the blog or any of our social media accounts and join us in honoring those who continue to drive our state’s agriculture industry forward each day!

As the longest serving employee in the Department of Agriculture with 49 years of service, it seems appropriate to begin this series with Chief Deputy Commissioner David Smith. His commitment and service to the agriculture industry runs deep.

David grew up on a family farm and has always been immersed in the industry. “My grandparents were farmers in the Lucama community during the 1900’s,” he said, “and then my parents raised me on our family farm in Benson.”

Smith’s Nursery and Produce Farm, formerly known as the John Carroll Place, was not only the homeplace of David and his three brothers, but also the place where he fell in love with agriculture and all that it provides for the community. Prior to 1990, the Smith family farmed tobacco, corn, soybeans and raised a few hogs. “Farming tobacco is hard work. Sometimes during harvest my family and I would be in the barn from 4 a.m. until 8 p.m.,” David said. “However, it was that quality of life and emphasis on hard work that shaped me into the man I am today and led me to a lifelong career in agriculture.”

In 1994, Smith’s Nursery transitioned to growing strawberries and nursery plants. It continues to be staple in the community today.

Chief Deputy Commissioner David Smith with Brad Allen, 2019 Employee of the Year

David started his career with the NCDA&CS upon graduation from N.C. State University in 1972 as an engineer in our Markets Division. “With a college degree in Biological and Agricultural Engineering, I was thrilled to be offered a job within my field directly out of college,” David said.

Through the years, David has held many roles within the department and managed a variety of tasks that led to him becoming Chief Deputy Commissioner in 2004.

On a daily basis, David can be found working on funding programs throughout the department, projects from Commissioner Troxler or mentoring young people across the agriculture industry, including the Governor’s page groups each week. “Normally there are about 10 to 12 page students and I have the great opportunity to speak with them about our state’s agriculture industry and the difference that they can make within it,” he said.

Mentoring young people is David’s passion. “I had many amazing leaders to look up to in the department when I first started out,” he said, “and it is important to me to provide that same opportunity to the young people entering the agriculture industry today.”

He not only enjoys passing on the wisdom he has gained through the years, but also takes great pride in watching these young people succeed in their careers. “It is always very rewarding to extend a helping hand to our future leaders and watch them take off,” he said. “For example, one individual that I have mentored within our department is current Legislative Liaison, Laura Killian. Laura came into the department at a very young age and I have had the honor to guide her and watch her become the rockstar that she is today. It’s a blessing to leave that kind of impact on the industry that I love.”

Chief Deputy Commissioner David Smith speaking at the 2021 Century Farm Family Reunion

In addition to mentoring, David also loves problem solving and pushing people outside their comfort zones. “My favorite part of this position is the challenge that comes with problem solving,” he said. “We all function better as a team and each person has a different skill set, so I enjoy pushing people outside their comfort zones, using our talents to the full potential and solving the problem together.”

Throughout his time at the department, David has seen many changes in the agriculture industry, mostly in regard to technology and the department’s ability to help farmers and agriculture industry professionals. “Farming has become a lot more sophisticated and scientific than when I first started, with the invention of precision agriculture and development of different technologies,” he said, “and the department as a whole has adapted and grown with the industry in a way that we are to help people far more now that when we started.” He is also pleased to see more women in leadership roles and more young people entering the industry today.

When he is not in the office, David can be found woodworking in his shop at home. From tables and chair to trivets made with wine corks, David has made many beautiful pieces that not only provide a fun hobby for him, but also bring a smile to the people who receive them. “I really enjoy working with different types of wood because each piece holds a unique texture and quality,” he said, “plus, I love the smell of sawdust.” He also enjoys working on and restoring Weber grills.

David plans to continue improving the industry through his role at the NCDA&CS and impacting our future leaders in any way that he can. Join us in thanking David for his years of hard work and dedication!