Expanding agriculture research in the N.C .Mountains

by | Nov 2, 2022

We Are Agriculture is a year-long series that will highlight the hard-work done by employees across the Department of Agriculture. Tracy Taylor, Superintendent of the Upper Mountain Research Station in Laurel Springs, 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!

A family history in agriculture often passes down the passion and dedication for the industry through the generations. Tracy Taylor, Superintendent of the Upper Mountain Research Station in Laurel Springs, has a strong connection not only with agriculture but the station in general. “My grandfather was the first permanent employee of the Upper Mountain Research Station,” he said. “My father grew up on the station, spending many days learning at the hand of my grandfather, and instilled in me a passion for the industry and work being done at this station and others across the state.” Tracy even worked for a few summers at the research station before heading off to college in 2002.

During his college years, Tracy majored in Auto Mechanics and then came to work as Maintenance Specialist at the Upper Mountain Research Station upon graduation. “I worked as the maintenance man from 2006 to 2013 and have always loved every minute of being here,” he said, “but when the position of Superintendent became available in 2013, I took my chances, applied and was lucky enough to earn my dream job.” Since becoming Superintendent, Tracy’s passion for the industry and love for his job has only grown.

A typical day in Tracy’s life at the research station can vary dramatically depending on time of year and current research projects. In addition to managing the station, working with cattle, Christmas trees and other crops, maintaining station logistics, overseeing research initiatives and assisting with planning on all major projects, Tracy still takes responsibility for many of the mechanic projects on the station as well. “Every day is unpredictable, but that’s part of what makes it so much fun,” he said. “It’s a very rewarding place to work because we get to develop ideas and techniques that help farmers and other agriculture industry producers create a sustainable future.”

Each year, the Upper Mountain Research Station grows anywhere from 12 to 20 different commodities for research, including corn, small grains, hay, a variety of plants, cattle and Christmas trees. “All the stations across North Carolina would like to find that one game changer for the industry, but the truth of the matter is that most of us spend each day aiming for the base hits that produce small advances,” Tracy said. “We study a variety of factors, such as weather, temperature tolerance and climate change, to help farmers better their operation one step at a time. It’s a slow burn, but that’s how we change the future of agriculture.”

A big emphasis is placed on Christmas trees at the Upper Mountain Research Station not only because they grow well in that part of the state, but also because many Christmas tree growers are located in or near that area. “Christmas trees are a long-term project because they take many years to turn a profit for growers,” said Tracy. “Here at the station, we work hard to learn more about the seed, post-harvest behavior and other factors of these trees to help growers yield a product each harvest season that will turn a profit.” One of the projects Tracy is most proud to be a part of right now is in working to make the Upper Mountain Research Station a turn-key operation for Christmas trees. “We are actively working to make this station a place where a tree will spend it’s full life,” he said, “meaning that we will study it from the seed all the way through post-harvest to glean all that we can from it.”

Although dealing with the variability of weather in the N.C. mountains can be challenging, there is truly no place Tracy would rather spend his career. “My office is 452 acres of beautiful farmland,” he said. “It doesn’t get much better than that!” He also really enjoys the connections that he has made across the industry while serving as Superintendent. “I have come to meet a lot of hard-working, talented and exceptional individuals in this industry through my position,” he said. “it’s important to know who to call when something goes wrong or who the experts are to ask about a specific crop. North Carolina farmers and agriculture industry workers are some of the best people around and I am honored to serve alongside them every day.”

When he is not working, Tracy is spending every moment that he can with his daughters and brand-new grandson, Beau. “That little boy takes up all of my time now,” he joked. Tracy’s youngest daughter is heading off to college to major in Animal Science and he couldn’t be prouder of the path she has chosen. “It’s important to teach the younger generation about agriculture and prepare them to one day take over where we leave off,” he said. “Even my grandson is already in love with tractors, cattle and trucks. Taking them both around the station to see the animals and teach them about this industry I call home is the most rewarding experience.” Join us in thanking Tracy for all of his hard work and be sure to visit him for a tour of the Upper Mountain Research Station when you get the chance!