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March 1, 2014

Extension agent took road less traveled

THOMASVILLE — Interning as a sales representative contributed to Andrew Sawyer’s success as a University of Georgia Extension agent. And, working for a local pest control company allowed him to develop communication skills that serve him well in his role at the Thomas County Extension Office.

“He is a people’s person,” said Rome Ethredge, the Seminole County Extension agent and Sawyer’s mentor. “He is ready to find out what people need and answer their questions. He is also a good teacher and can express himself well.”

Sawyer has served Thomas County for two years as the agriculture and natural resources agent. His job is to answer area farmers’ questions or concerns regarding crops, disease control, pestidentification and more. If Sawyer doesn’t have the answer, he’s always willing to go the extra mile to find the solution.

Sawyer took the road less travelled in his pursuit of a career with UGA Extension. His journey began with degrees from UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Internships at Walt Disney World and Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team, soon followed.

After a brief stint as a door-to-door salesman, Sawyer found his calling in Thomas County. Landing a job with the Extension office wasn’t by chance. Sawyer’s internships helped him realize Extension was where he belonged.

“When you go work somewhere, you’re going to learn how that corporation operates, and that’s why doing internships is so important,” Sawyer said. “The experience makes you so much more marketable in the work force.”

At Disney World in 2006, Sawyer and fellow interns closely managed the massive tree varieties, shrubs and flowers that help provide visitors with a “magical” experience. Sawyer enjoyed working with the range of plants there, but as a turfgrass management major and baseball fanatic, his heart was set to work on sports fields. With a little help from his professors at UGA, Sawyer landed a summer internship with the Atlanta Braves grounds crew in 2007.

“Ninety hours a week wasn’t unusual for us there,” he said. “We would come in at about 9 a.m. on a game day and work until the game was over.” Sawyer worked 44 home games that summer. He loved working for the grounds crew, but he discovered that working with sports turf wasn’t for him.

Although his classmates decided to move on from school, Sawyer decided to pursue his master’s degree and tackled another internship —  selling pest control.

“I was kind of getting tired of school, too, but I decided that if I don’t do it now, I probably never will,” Sawyer said. “A lot of my friends changed jobs often because they didn’t have that internship experience like I did. You have to find something you like and then get into it.”

Sawyer has found his niche and enjoys every second of every day in his Extension job, which can turn into a long day very quickly.

“You can come into work with not much on your plate and then end up having the busiest day of your life,” Sawyer said. “After working in pest control, door-to-door sales, at Disney World and the Atlanta Braves, this is, I would say, probably the best job I’ve had, and it has been just about everything I thought it would be.”

The self-motivator credits his success in finding a career that he is passionate about to his willingness to experience other options.

“The experiences themselves are what develop your opinion,” Sawyer said. “If not for those internships, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

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