Building People

The value extension provides became apparent to Jay Harmon on day one of his first job.

Hired as a farm structures specialist at Clemson University, Harmon started a week after Hurricane Hugo slammed into the South Carolina coast.

“I figured out pretty quickly that I wasn’t working to rebuild barns, I was working to rebuild people,” Harmon says. “We spent a lot of time visiting farms that had lost buildings. Many times we were providing more service than education.”

That focus on service stuck with Harmon throughout his career. It is still with him as he takes over the role of interim director for Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach at Iowa State University.

Harmon succeeds John Lawrence, interim vice president of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Prior to moving into this administrative roll, Harmon was a professor of agricultural

and biosystems engineering at Iowa State where he specialized in livestock production systems. Harmon holds degrees in agricultural engineering from Purdue University and the University of Minnesota. He earned his doctorate from Virginia Tech University.

“Dr. Harmon has a firm commitment to production agriculture. His leadership and ability to seek solutions make him a highly valued resource for Iowa’s pork producers,” says Pat McGonegle (’83 animal science), CEO of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

“His research in swine production systems, particularly hog building design and construction, has been invaluable.”

Harmon’s initial focus since taking over as interim director in April is stewarding the human capital already in place throughout Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach.

“What this job comes down to, internally, is taking care of our people from when they start to when they retire,” Harmon says.

He also is working to ensure Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach is positioned to continue helping people across the state.

“Agriculture must be environmentally sustainable but also grow to help feed the world,” Harmon says. “We can impact the lives of Iowans, making them more efficient and agriculture more sustainable. Over the next few years we will be tasked with feeding more people, so we need to remain innovative. We can make life easier by helping Iowans make informed decisions.”

Making the lives of Iowans better is at the heart of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s mission. It’s the same mission Harmon has carried with him throughout his career.

“I was a 10-year 4-H’er and had extension experiences through my own county office in Indiana,” Harmon says. “I saw the impact that can be made. It’s not just that you are doing research and outreach, it’s that you are doing something with an immediate impact to help someone.”