An Interview with new Moore County Extension Agent Will Thomas

By Tabitha Evans Moore, EDITOR & PUBLISHER

LYNCHBURG — Long time UT Extension County Director Larry Moorehead retired in 2023. Soon after, state officials named existing County Agent Brenda Hannah as his replacement – creating an opening in Lynchburg. In February, Hannah announced that Will Thomas would become our county’s newest addition.

Thomas comes to Moore County from Normandy where he currently lives on a 350-acre beef cattle farm. He graduated from Tullahoma High School and then initially attended Bethel University. He later transferred to Tennessee Tech where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Agri Science with a focus in Soil Science. TTU named him as their Outstanding Agricultural Student twice during his time there.

Thomas says he learned of the Moore County opening while still attending TTU.

“The people in the front office of the Agricultural Department sent out the opening to all ag students. I knew I wanted to come back to Bedford County following graduation, so it immediately piqued my interest. I applied for it, and it felt like a good fit. Several weeks later, I received the call that I’d gotten the job,” Thomas says.

{Editrix Note: We also interviewed fellow new UT Extension Agent Katie Knight. Her interview will publish on Wednesday morning.}

Moore County Feeder Cow Program

Thomas says a career as an ag agent appeals to him because it’s hands on position that allows him to go out in the community and produce an immediate impact not only on the lives of local farmers but also the hundreds of 4-H students in the community.

Throughout high school, Thomas participated in the 4-H Trap and Skeet Shooting Program. In fact, he earned a scholarship to Bethel University through the middle school and high school programs. He says he’s excited about helping Moore County with their program.

He also says that prior to his arrival, he felt particularly excited about working with local farmers and The Jack Daniel Distillery with the Feeder Cow Program. For those who don’t already know that program allows local farmers to feed spent distillers grain (or slop) to area cattle.

“We’re so lucky to have that program,” Thomas says. “Not a lot of communities have access to something like that.”

Thomas says part of his job will be to be a liaison with Moore County farmers to make sure they’re making the most of the unique, local resource. It’s something he’s been doing for years on his family’s feeder calf operation in Bedford County.

Without us, it’s hard to run the world.

Though Thomas loves the rural, small town perspective of his native Normandy and new work community, Lynchburg, he’s quick to remind us of the importance of farming from a global perspective.

“With the world population expected to go up to close to 10 billion people by 2050, it’s so important that us farmers are out here creating a good product to feed the world,” he says. “There’s less and less farmers and more and more demand. We do an important job that can sometimes be overlooked. Without us, it’s hard to run the world.”

Across the nation, more and more consumers are turning towards local farms to supply their beef rather than rely on factory farms with sometimes questionable practices. It’s a trend Thomas recognizes as well.

“I think consumers really want a product that they know is raised ethically,” Thomas says.

He says small local producers tend to utilize systems and processes that have been passed down for generations, which leads to consumer trust. He also says he’s excited about new technologies like GIS land mapping and drones that will be utilized by a whole new generation of farmers.

“You can scan a field now with a drone camera and determine what nutrient levels they need. There’s a lot of interesting technology that’s out there now in the agricultural field.”

Thomas says the newness of the technology sometimes makes it cost prohibitive for smaller farmers, but he anticipates that it will become cheaper and more accessible as time goes on.

As a hobby, Thomas likes to fly drones in his spare time and says he’d be very interested to try and use his drone to map local Moore County farms.

Thomas also says he’s eager to meet as many local folks as possible.

“I’m a young guy and I know I have a lot to learn but I’m eager to learn as much as I can. I also really enjoy helping people. That’s one of my biggest passions. I just want to be a resource for locals.”

He says his year-one goal is to meet as many members of the community as possible. If you haven’t already, members of the community can meet Thomas and well as fellow new agent Katie Knight at the Moore County UT Extension Meet & Greet planned for Wednesday, March 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Both new agents will both be in attendance.

If you’d like to reach out to Thomas, you may do so through the Moore County UT/TSU Extension office at 931-759-7163 or on his personal cell phone at 931-434-5791. You can also reach him via email at [email protected]. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only locally-owned and locally-operated community newspaper in Lynchburg, Tennessee. We cover local news and events as well as the tourism and whiskey industries in southern, middle Tennessee. Click here to subscribe.}