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Down to Earth: How one alumnus found his passion in soil research

Frank Henning (PHD ’10) currently works as a senior scientist in the Duluth, Georgia, office of Woodard & Curran, an integrated engineering, science and operations company. Dr. Henning graduated from the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences with a Ph.D. in horticulture. He coordinates environmental field studies, scientific investigations, Clean Water Act permitting, environmental policy studies, restoration projects and environmental construction management.

Dr. Henning says he chose to study soil because “soil is the ultimate recycling bin; it has the most amazing capacity to transform wastes into life.”

While many think of soil as critical in the agricultural realm, he said it is important to study soil for conservation as well.

His appreciation for soil grows with every project. These projects include restoring native vegetation along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, developing geospatial tools to reduce erosion in fire stricken areas of California, and monitoring changes in salinity along the Georgia coast.

He also has worked on preventative projects to protect water resources from erosion during development and has designed urban landscapes that treat pollutants and infiltrate runoff.

If you’re interested in joining Dr. Henning in solving grand challenges that face our agricultural and environmental futures, please consider giving to the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Fund.

40 Under 40 reflections: Sam Watson

The 40 Under 40 program began in 2011, and celebrates the personal, professional and philanthropic achievements of young UGA graduates. To continue our 40 Under 40 coverage, we caught up with three agriculture professionals–Sam Watson, Travis Moore and Amelia Dortch–from the 2017 honoree class to learn about their career journeys and the wisdom they’ve gained along the way. 

Meet Sam Watson

  • 40 Under 40 Class of 2017
  • BSA ’02
  • Farmer at Chill C Farms and Georgia state representative

Sam Watson, 2017 40 Under 40 honoree

Sam Watson balances being a Georgia farmer and state representative by taking things one day at a time. As a farmer, he grows, ships and packs bell peppers, squash, eggplant, cucumbers, cabbage and tomatoes. He also raises cattle. As a state representative, he represents District 172 and serves on the rural caucus. We caught up with Watson to discuss how the 40 Under 40 program has impacted him a year later and about the value of a UGA education.

Nailing his dream job

“A career in agriculture is what I’ve always wanted to do. My first job out of college was with a large vegetable operation which led to my interest in produce. I grew up as a livestock kid so vegetable production was a big change for me.”

Being named 40 Under 40

“I am very appreciative. One of the driving forces behind my decision to run for the State House was to try to be a voice for rural Georgia and agriculture. It’s an essential part of our state’s economy, but there are only a few people in state government who have a solid understanding of the challenges facing communities like mine. Being recognized with 40 Under 40 gives me another opportunity to share the importance of my industry–and to advocate for, not just agriculture, but for rural communities across our state.”

Sam Watson, 2017 40 Under 40 honoree

Greatest risk–an even better reward

“In December of 2012, I quit my ‘real’ job to run for State Representative for House District 172 and farm full time. There were no guarantees that I would be successful at either, but I prayed about it and took a giant leap of faith, and here I am. Some months are certainly more stressful than others, but I remind myself to do the duty that lies nearest.”

Lessons from UGA

“UGA provided me with a quality education, but also forced me outside my comfort zone. If that didn’t happen I wouldn’t have ever left the farm and been able to help make an impact today.”

Words of wisdom

“Work hard – no amount of education can make up for a poor work ethic.”

Career destination

“My career goals are to grow my farming operation, help feed the world and continue to make our state a great place to live and to work and raise a family on the farm.”