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Buncombe Names New Agriculture and Land Resources Director

Buncombe County is excited to announce it will be merging Soil & Water Conservation and the NC Cooperative Extension to form the Agriculture and Land Resources Department. After interviewing several highly qualified candidates, Jennifer Harrison will be heading this new department and collaboration. “During the selection process, Jennifer’s ability to work with a diverse group of stakeholders and facilitate collaboration that results in a positive outcome really stood out,” notes Assistant County Manager Sybil Tate. “Jennifer has the communication, collaborative, and technical skills to be a successful leader for Cooperative Extension and Soil and Water.”

The new Ag and Land Resources Department’s goal is to streamline administrative processes and improve collaboration. Both of these departments operate valuable programs that complement each other, and we have the opportunity to leverage their compatibility creating an even greater impact on our community. “My short-term goal is to gain a deep understanding of the work that has been and is currently being completed so that I can be a champion for both Soil & Water and Extension throughout the County,” says Harrison. “I bring many years of experience working with various communities to educate landowners and citizens about environmental impacts and the benefits that come with responsible land management. I am interested in learning all I can about the area and pairing my new knowledge with my past experience.”

Harrison comes to Buncombe County from Ohio State University, where she received a Ph.D. in Environmental Science and researched sustainability metrics in Ohio’s organic dairies. Her extensive work with a variety agricultural-based projects gives her a unique and well-informed perspective on sustainability best practices. Harrison will begin her role as Director of Ag and Land Resources on Monday, March 23.

Jennifer Harrison’s professional bio:

Jennifer has a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Ohio State University. Her research focused on sustainability metrics in Ohio’s organic dairies. In addition to her Ph.D., she earned a bachelor’s in History from the College of Wooster and master’s in Environmental Studies with a focus on Environmental Administration from Antioch New England Graduate School in Keene, NH.

Before deciding to return to school, Jennifer spent many years traveling the country working on a wide variety of environmental issues. She spent three years in Wisconsin managing the Sustainability Department at Organic Valley. Prior to working in Wisconsin, she led the Livestock and Land program in Santa Cruz, CA. The program partnered with the local Resource Conservation Districts (the CA equivalent to Soil & Water Conservation Districts) and NRCS to provide landowners with assistance reducing nutrient, sediment, and pathogen transportation into local waterways.

In addition to long walks with her dog Winston, Jennifer enjoys cooking, gardening, knitting, and traveling the world in search of amazing experiences. She and Winston are excited to begin their new lives in the Asheville area and are looking forward to exploring all that Buncombe County has to offer.