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Tifton soil expert enjoying teaching at UGA-Tifton campus

Glen Harris teaches a soils and hydrology class at the Tifton campus of UGA

The agricultural education Harris received at an early age led him to a Ph.D at Michigan State in 1993. A year later, Harris moved to Tifton. (Special Photo)

The agricultural education Harris received at an early age led him to a Ph.D at Michigan State in 1993. A year later, Harris moved to Tifton. (Special Photo)

TIFTON — The University of Georgia Tifton Campus is a home away from home for one New Jersey native.

Glen Harris, one of the state’s leading soils fertility experts, is called upon to assist with a wide range of questions regarding cotton, peanuts, corn and soybeans. He may not have all the answers, but is determined to find them when called upon.

“Good research, sometimes takes two or three years to (gather) and get it published. (In my job) I can go out here and somebody asks, ‘This year with all this wet weather, can I spray calcium chloride instead of putting it through the pivot? Will it burn?’ I say, ‘I don’t know, but I’ve got some peanuts to spray it on.’ Three days later I can call them and say, ‘Yeah, we can do that.’”

Harris has been answering those types of questions for Georgia farmers for almost 20 years. This time of year is when Harris finds most of his answers, when crops have been harvested and data is calculated.

“This is a fun time of the year for me, between teaching and harvesting,” Harris said. “This is what’s going to give me a lot of information to provide and extend to the farmers this year through the county agents’ meetings.”

UGA Extension work is not the only duty that monopolizes Harris’ time. During the school year, Harris teaches a soils and hydrology class. Harris doesn’t mind that the teaching is done on a volunteer basis. He considers himself a team player and chose to assist when the Tifton Campus started an academic program in 2003.

“I thought it was good for the campus, and that’s why I volunteered,” Harris said. “I went into it 11 years ago, having no idea if I’d like it or not. But I guess it’s no surprise that a guy with an Extension personality can take that experience to the classroom and like it. And I love teaching. I don’t really even see it as volunteering above and beyond. I just see it as something that needed to be done.”

Harris wouldn’t be in the position he’s in today if not for the lessons taught to him at an early age by his father, Glen Sr. The proud son credits his dad’s influence for his career in agriculture.

“I remember as a little kid working in his garden. He really steered me or encouraged me,” Harris said. “The year before my freshman year in high school, he said you’re old enough to work on a farm. My dad was definitely my motivating factor.”

Harris’ first summer job in New Jersey was picking sweet corn and bell peppers. He also worked on a cut flower farm and in blueberries.

The agricultural education Harris received at an early age led him to a Ph.D at Michigan State in 1993. A year later, Harris moved to Tifton,

In addition to his research and Extension roles, Harris advises the Georgia Plant Food and Education Society. He also serves as a judge for various school-related projects, as well as the specialist in charge of the 4-H land-judging contest statewide. Harris is also an active participant in UGA’s Ag Awareness Days, held twice a year to educate local third and fourth graders about agriculture.

“Any chance we can get to talk to kids about agriculture, we need to take it,” Harris said.

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