Daniel Carpenter took agricultural experiences from his teenage years and turned it into a career as an agricultural extension agent.
The 36-year-old is originally from Springfield and did not grow up on a farm but got a lot of work experience in his teenage years working on a few tobacco patches, hayfields and a local greenhouse.
“I enjoyed watching things grow and knowing that what I was doing was helping them develop into something useful or delicious or something pleasing to the eye,” Carpenter said. “I always enjoy seeing this end product and looking at what has been done to get to this point and thinking about what can be done to improve it.”
Carpenter received a degree in plant and soil sciences from the University of Kentucky in 2007 and a master’s degree in agriculture from Western Kentucky University in 2019.
His first job after his first degree was at Cecilia Farm Service.
“I have enjoyed getting to know my clients and being someone they can count on to get the farm produce they need and advice,” he said. “I had such a good reputation there that even a client set up me with his daughter who is now my wife (Whitney Carpenter).”
Carpenter then decided to pursue a career in agricultural education that allowed him to be someone farmers could rely on for research-based information. He has been a extension agent in LaRue County for more than six years.
Misty Willmouth and Marla Stilwell work with Carpenter.
Willmouth worked with Carpenter for six years and they worked together on the shows.
“Daniel was instrumental in making sure that the La Rue County Farmers’ Market was delivered,” she said. “One of the projects he’s been instrumental in helping with is the annual AgStravaganza Meal Farm set up in downtown Hodgenville.”
She also said he helps out with the local FFA chapter and coaches a crop survey team that has won nationally.
Stilwell recently started working with Carpenter. She said it was easy to like him with a sense of humor.
“As Daniel’s new co-worker, he was very welcoming and thorough making sure I knew about important meetings and events in La Rue County,” she said. “Daniel has a wonderful working relationship with the many farmers and landowners in the county who benefit from him and his expert knowledge and as a reliable supplier.”
Carpenter enjoys providing farmers with the right research information and not the random information found on social media. He said there is a lot of misinformation circulating today, and sometimes it feels like an information overload that makes it hard to know what is true and what is not.
He said he enjoys finding new ways to get information to people, including one of his favorite shows, a weekly podcast called Dirt to Dollars. It’s a podcast he does with Hardin County Agent Matt Adams, and Grayson County AG’s Agent Whitney Carmen and Carpenter. It started in 2020 when the pandemic hit.
“It was a great way for us to get university information and ag news to the masses,” he said, adding that they can be found by searching for or hearing the “Dirt to Dollars Podcast” at 8:05 a.m. Saturdays on ABE 93.7.
Matt Adams, the Hardin County Expansion Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources, said he’s known Carpenter since Adams came to Hardin County.
“When you look at his history, he has really been around and worked in many different aspects of agriculture – coming from a horticultural background, then working in agricultural retail, then to the community college system, and eventually to the UK Extension – his experiences,” Adams said.
Adams said Carpenter invests in the community.
“When he started working in LaRue County, he really bought there, and from the outside looking in, you’d think he was a lifelong local, even though he doesn’t live or have any personal connection to LaRue County,” Adams said. .
Adams said he’s not afraid to try new things, referring to their podcast. He said Carpenter took it upon himself to learn the recording and editing process to produce a professional audio show.
Adams said Carpenter goes all out, even working with sheep because he works in a county that has a lot of sheep and goats.
“I have a hard time being a shepherd,” Adams said, “but he goes to the guy on sheep and goat questions, mainly because he lives every day.”
Working with farmers, Carpenter learned the importance of connecting with his peers.
“The real learning in the extension program happens in the conversations that happen at the end of the program,” Carpenter said. “It’s important for your transplant, but it’s also important for your mental health to discuss issues, concerns, and questions with your colleagues.”
He said that the most successful farmers are those who are willing to seek help and share information with fellow farmers.
Carpenter decided to do some farming himself but said he was quite new at it and that his farm in Howevalley didn’t have much infrastructure on the property.
“We decided to start raising sheep from Kataheen hair because it didn’t include a lot of start-up costs for us, and I was basically able to build and scrap any feeders and pens we needed to get started,” he said. “Although I had a lot of experience and education in organic farming, none of it was about sheep.”
Carpenter said he and his wife wanted to share the kids and thought helping the little animals would be a good start.
“It is important for my wife and I to learn about taking care of their animals and the land,” he said.
It was also a learning experience as an extension agent, Carpenter said.
“I think it helps me be a better source of information for others who are starting farming and also for those looking to add sheep to their farms,” he said.
Carpenter is one of 22 participants selected for Chapter 13 of the Kentucky Agricultural Leadership Program and is eager to get started.
“It is an intensive two-year program dedicated to the important and timely issues affecting agriculture,” he said, adding that sessions focus on improving communication, leadership and management skills. “I hope that my participation in the program will better help me be an effective leader in the agricultural and rural communities in which I live and serve.”
Carpenter is also involved in the Hodgenville Rotary Club and serves on the board of the LaRue County Chamber of Commerce.
“I know there are a lot of farmers out there who would like to work in some of these roles, but their profession doesn’t allow a lot of time to do these things,” he said. “I can make it work on my schedule and be an active voice for farming in these community groups.”