After 30 years of working as a licensed agricultural consultant, Billy McLawhorn says the work is different now, but still as challenging and rewarding as the day he started.

This year, he says, after putting all his sweep nets and insect sampling tools away for the winter, he found stink bugs in a soybean field later than at any time in his 30-year career. This year it was late stink bugs, next year it will be something different, he says.

Having grown up on a diversified farm in eastern North Carolina, becoming a crop consultant may not seem like much of a jump, but that’s not quite accurate and at best only part of the reason he chose an occupation that demands he be on the cutting edge of technology in order to best advise his customers — farmers.

“As soon as I learned how to do arithmetic, my Dad started teaching me how to do enterprise budgets. I always had a fascination with planning things and following through to see how the actual event matched up with my plan,” he says.

By the time he left the family farm to attend college at North Carolina State University, McLawhorn says returning to the farm or to farming was the furthest thing from his mind. “I wanted to get as far away from those things as I could,” he laughs.

After a year or so changing college majors and losing lots of sleep wondering about his future, he says he figured out what he wanted to do, so he earned a degree in agronomy, which proved to be one of the easier steps in his professional odyssey.

After graduating from college, he returned to the farm, worked with his father some on the farm, got married, started a pick your own strawberry operation and a retail store. The getting married part, he says, was the best of those early choices, both professionally and personally.