Jul 6, 2020George Hamilton gets National Association of County Ag Agents Hall of Fame award
George Hamilton is more used to dealing with outbreaks of insects and crop disease than with an outbreak of a pandemic.
Hamilton, a field specialist at the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, works to develop and share educational programming with the state’s farming community to help agriculture prosper in a sustainable way. He also conducts site visits to farms to diagnose problems and figure out solutions, as well as conduct research projects.
While COVID-19 has prevented Hamilton from being as hands-on as he would like in recent months, he continues to offer expert advice to growers across the state and region.
According to a story by the Concord Monitor in Concord, New Hampshire, after almost 31 years in New Hampshire, Hamilton was awarded the National Association of County Agricultural Agents Hall of Fame award in May. The award recognizes up to four recipients each year for dedication and effective leadership as an outstanding educator, association involvement at both the state and national level, and outstanding humanitarian service.
Hamilton, who is the first award winner from New England, was nominated by extension colleagues who praised both his nationally recognized work and his relationships with growers and staff.
Olivia Saunders, a field production specialist in fruit and vegetable production at the extension, nominated Hamilton for the Hall of Fame award because she felt he would be a perfect candidate.
“I was looking at the requirements and I was like, ‘This is George’ – he’s given his whole life to this work, and very few people have accomplished what he has accomplished,” she said.
The Concord Monitor reported:
Raised on a vineyard in Pennsylvania near Lake Erie, Hamilton was involved in the Future Farmers of America while in high school and put himself through Penn State University using money from his tomato crops.
Hamilton’s own experiences with teachers and professors inspired him to pursue agricultural education, beginning in Biglerville, Pa., the center of the state’s apple industry.
After teaching “anything and everything” in high school and college programs in Pennsylvania and Washington state, Hamilton realized he enjoyed working with established farmers and applied for the UNH extension job in 1989.
Despite the wide range of projects Hamilton has worked on over the past three decades, he approaches them all with the same focus – putting the individual farmers and growers at the center, he said.
“I work with people who have problems. I don’t work with a problem,” Hamilton said. “The people part of it is important to me, because if I can help the person feel better about what they’re doing, they’re more apt to take the recommendations I have and implement them.”
Hamilton is nationally known for his work creating integrated pest management programs over the past 20 years, as well as in the field of sprayer calibration. Hamilton’s work with sprayer calibration stretches back to when he was in high school, when his father asked him to figure out how to fix a sprayer on their farm.
“The next day, I asked my teacher, and he came up and showed me, and it’s something that from when I was a sophomore in high school has stuck with me,” he said.
Those lessons became important in 2007 and 2008, when Hamilton visited several farmers struggling with disease outbreaks and insect problems.
After recalibrating one farmer’s sprayer, Hamilton identified it as the source of the problem. He began checking more and more sprayers to avoid problems and began to speak about his work.
“All of a sudden I had a couple grants for around $50,000 and some new equipment from Belgium that nobody in America was making, and all of a sudden, I’m known as the person to talk about sprayer calibration,” he said.
That’s just one of the fields he’s excelled in over the years.
George Hamilton. Photo: University of New Hampshire