CARS Conversations December 2014
In many respects, you could say that Thomas M. Harmon Jr. is home grown (agriculture pun intended). Tom was born and raised in Camden, Delaware, where he graduated from Caesar Rodney High School in 1976. He then became a Hornet as a student in the School of Agriculture at Delaware State College, before the ‘School’ grew into the College of Agriculture and Related Sciences (CARS) and before the ‘College’ grew into Delaware State University. As an undergrad, Tom spent his summers helping Cooperative Extension with youth programs by serving as a youth counselor; by his last summer as a DSU student, he had been promoted to Summer Camp director.
Tom clearly remembers when Extension personnel were housed in a 24 by 40 foot modular building behind the Baker Building, which is now a parking lot. Back then, Extension staff consisted of Dr. Ulysses S. Washington, Jr., DSU’s first Extension Administrator, Research Director and Agriculture Department chair; a secretary; four agents; and Tom as the Extension program assistant. Tom said initially he was a “door-to-door salesman for the Cooperative Extension—communicating primarily with families in Kent and Sussex counties about Extension.” Tom’s focus was on locating underserved citizens to provide them with information and to help them establish and maintain home gardens, and on identifying local agencies that offered assistance services. Soon after, his primary role shifted to assisting Extension agents with their programs/demonstrations, scheduling, monitoring and maintaining audio visual set-ups, photography, assisting with programming and driving the mobile teaching unit, (MoTec). Currently, Tom serves as the Program Services Coordinator for CARS.
While he continues assisting specialists, agents and educators with programs and demonstrations, Tom’s responsibilities now also include the Backyard Gardening Program; preparing the Outreach and Research Center (DSU’s research farm in Smyrna, DE) for crop research and demonstration programs, and assisting with programs at sites throughout Delaware in the newly renovated mobile teaching unit, now referred to as MET. Tom is relied upon by CARS faculty, staff and students alike to prepare the Smyrna farm for visitors, and to assist with both greenhouse seedling production and field plot preparation. Tom also advises on the ordering, purchasing and maintenance of vehicles, farm equipment, tools and supplies to support Cooperative Extension and Cooperative Research efforts in CARS.
For several years, Tom has assisted CARS Dean Dyremple Marsh and Dr. Marikis Alvarez, Associate Dean for Research, in the production of quality pepper seeds. The research being conducted on these peppers—native to Antigua, Haiti and Jamaica—will hopefully produce seeds resistant to some common viruses and diseases.
Away from the office, Tom enjoys spending time with his family, day trips and (can you believe it?) gardening. He enjoys learning and sharing information with everyone about gardening and growing vegetables.
“What little I know, I like to share; it gives me great joy to see those that want to grow vegetables for the first time in their gardens and yards, do so successfully.”
Tom looks forward to playing golf again and riding horses, which he used to train. #bucketlist