This month we are pleased to present Norm Conrad for our Spotlight Feature. Norm has dedicated more than four decades of his life to the ag industry. In the Northeast, Norm is known as a generous and supportive professional and educator who also has wonderful produce growing skills! Norm is an Army veteran, a doting grandfather, and has even bumped elbows with the likes of Willie Nelson and Dave Matthews Band backstage at Farm Aid. We are very fortunate to have Norm on our contractor team, please enjoy reading more about him in this month's Contractor Spotlight.
How did you get involved with DCI?
An area agronomist called me and alerted me that DCI was looking for contractors in Pennsylvania and he suggested I consider filling out an application. The recruiting team contacted me when there was an opening that fit my skills and background and the rest is history!
Tell us about your background:
I worked as a plant pathologist and as an Extension Educator in Oregon, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania until retiring. I then worked for 4 years for NCAT in their USDA/ATTRA program as the Northeast Director.
What is the best thing about being a DCI Contractor?
The DCI projects are well structured with clear, concise objectives. These opportunities allow me to work one-on-one with farmers, helping them to meet their goals and adopt leading-edge technologies and stewardship.
Tell us about your home and family.
My wife, a retiring nurse, and I raised 3 children on our small farm in central Pennsylvania. With my eldest daughter, I raise vegetables and small fruit which until COVID struck, we sold in NYC. Since COVID, we now focus on supplying local restaurants in the area with our locally grown produce. All of our children grew up being active in the 4-H and Scouting programs. Our granddaughter loves coming to the farm to help gather eggs, harvest fruit and berries, and sit on the tree swing.
When you are working, what are you driving?
You’ll find me driving a 2017 Ford Escape or 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee depending on the terrain and how rough the tractor paths become.
What was your first job?
Picking vegetables during the summer months for a local farmer with a large produce stand. (It paid $1.65 per hour!)
What are your hobbies and interests?
My hobbies are fly fishing, hunting, traveling, and watching the performing arts (theatre, stand-up comedy, music) especially if my children are performing.
What do you do the first hour of the morning?
Walk the dog, make a pot of coffee, check my email, and pull up the weather reports.
What is your greatest achievement?
Teaming with my wife in raising our family and watching them grow up!
What are you ordering for your favorite meal?
My favorite meal would be a basket of Maryland blue crabs in Old Bay spice, with pitchers of beer and a side of coleslaw.
What are your favorite sports teams?
I’m a sucker for the Philadelphia Phillies.
What is the happiest memory of your life?
Watching a team of 6 high schoolers I mentored in a 6-month research project write a script, design a storyboard, produce, film, and edit a 16-minute educational video on barnyard stewardship and manure management. The team and the video went on to win 3 national awards from the National Association of County Ag Agents, the American Society of Agronomy, and the USDA/NRCS as Ag Video of the Year.
Tell us about your favorite pet.
My favorite pet is my current dog Matilda, a 70 lb Weimaraner who needs to cover 2 miles a day, she hunts both small and large game with an unflagging drive. She also loves to play hide and seek with our granddaughter when she hides on the farm and we command Matilda to "find Pearl".
What was the first concert you attended?
The first concert I attended was Billy Joel’s first album tour of “Piano Man” at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Sitting in the seat directly in front of me was Bruce Springsteen with a date - my roommate got his autograph! My best concert experiences came from when I was assigned to Farm Aid from 2013-17 by NCAT. I was paid to go to the concert venues for the week to represent sustainable Ag, lead workshops, and I was granted full backstage access for the entirety of the event seeing acts such as Willie, Dave Mathews, and John Mellencamp.
What 3 people (living or not) would you invite to a dinner party?
Jacques Cousteau, Thomas Edison, and Martin Luther
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
A cold, unfiltered wheat beer after mowing the lawn.
What historical figure do you admire most?
Walter Reed, the Army doctor who identified the cause of the malaria disease spread by mosquitos and then implemented a control plan during the building of the Panama Canal, saving thousands of lives.
What is something most people do not know about you?
I’m a child of immigrants who didn’t speak English until I went to kindergarten, I’m an Army veteran, and I love to spend time at my house in the Alps.
Where in the world are you dying to visit?
I would love to visit New Zealand.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
“Get the best people you can on your team, give them everything they need to get the job done, and don’t worry about claiming any of the credit.” I got this advice from a mentor of mine, an Army pilot. When I asked him why not claim credit he stated the leaders giving you that assignment will remember your team's achievements and if you don’t get promoted soon, another leader will come and snatch you up!
Is there anything else that you would like to share?
I really enjoy and find success working with the DCI project team and leadership. The DCI team is one of the most balanced, well-functioning groups I’ve had the pleasure of working with in my 40+ years in agriculture.