What is in this article?:
- Billy McLawhorn reflects on 30 years as a North Carolina crop consultant
- Started business in 1982
- Requirements of a consultant
• With the full support of his then new wife, Martha, McLawhorn started his consulting business in 1982.
• By 1985, he says, it was doing well enough that Martha came to work with him full time.
• “After that it seems like personnel issues went away and we have been fortunate to work with high quality, dedicated people throughout our business life,” McLawhorn says.
AFTER 30 years in the consulting business New Bern, N.C., consultant Billy McLawhorn says agriculture is a great place to work.
Requirements of a consultant
In North Carolina and a handful of other states, most notably California, to be a licensed crop consultant and member of the state agriculture consulting association requires considerably more than waking up one morning and deciding you want to be a crop consultant.
For starters to be a voting member of the North Carolina Agricultural Consultants Association, a person has be an independent operator, meaning he or she cannot sell agriculture products or promote one product over another.
Members also have to have a pesticide consulting license, which requires a written examination, which requires a bachelors degree from an accredited four-year university.
In addition NCACA members must have completed two years of experience as a crop consultant. Provisional membership is available to those who lack the professional experience.
The legal and technical requirements for being a licensed crop consultant doesn’t mean much to most farmers, McLawhorn admits. Most farmers are more interested in your knowledge and how you can apply it to help them reduce risks associated with growing the crops they grow, he says.
“Both our state association and our national counterpart, the NAICC are much more valuable to consultants like him than to farmers, the North Carolina Crop Consultant says.
“Over the years we all run into issues we can’t solve, but rarely do we run across one that someone in our organization hasn’t seen and overcome. Having that professional connection for help has been one of the best parts of what I’ve done professionally for the past 30 years,” McLawhorn adds.
“Another big asset has been the quality of farmers I work with. Going back to when I started in this business, I still have 85-90 percent of the customers I started with more than 25 years ago. I learn something new from them every time I sit down to help them plan a crop or go over something I’ve found in their fields.”
“Several of my grower-clients started out with a few hundred acres or so and now farm several thousand acres. It’s that kind of growth that has allowed me and most other consultants of my generation to hire college-trained associates who can then use the experience they gain and qualify for a consulting license.
“Since I was little boy, I’ve been interested in planning crops and figuring the most efficient and cost effective ways to produce a crop. Consulting can be a rewarding career, but it can be a very demanding one, and it’s not for everyone with a college degree and an interest in agriculture,” McLawhorn says.
In the future, the challenges are likely to get bigger and bigger as technology progresses, farms get bigger and risks get higher, he says.
“As new technology comes into play and the stakes of farming get higher, the role that university research and Extension people play will be greater in the future.
“The first 30 years have been a blast, and I can’t wait to see what comes next,” McLawhorn says.