N.C. A&T’s “Lion of Agriculture” Looks Toward the Future

06/24/2022 Alumni, Employees, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences

The name Leon means lion, the king of all animals. He’s a big presence, with authority that commands attention. But it’s his ability to get the job done that commands respect.

For 42 years, N.C. A&T State University’s “lion” has been Leon Moses, superintendent of the University Farm. In a career that includes roles as student worker, research assistant and, for the past 18 years, superintendent of the 492-acre operation, Moses has groomed and guided the farm to preeminence in North Carolina agriculture and the farm staff to excellence in their work.

“I’ve always admired his commitment to excellence. He leads by example, and the farm has thrived under his leadership,” said N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “The research he’s facilitated has likely generated millions of dollars for our state, and the investments that he has made in others will matter even more, in the years to come.”

Now, as Moses plans to retire from the farm he helped create, he looks toward the future with excitement and energy. With two children and three grandchildren to enjoy, classic cars to restore and travel plans with his wife, Iris, the future looks bright.

“This farm has been my life, and it has made me the person I am today. Now, I want to see if there’s more to life,” he said.

During his tenure as superintendent, which began in 2004, the farm has transformed from a dated, ancillary unit badly in need of repairs and upgrades to a modern, immaculate operation directly involved in the college’s mission of research, teaching and Cooperative Extension.leon-moses_72.jpg

“Leon has managed the farm superbly and brought it up to the standard of being the best-run, most beautiful farm in the state,” said Mohamed Ahmedna, Ph.D, dean of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. “Leon’s leadership, proactivity and follow-through will be missed. I’ll also miss his wise counsel.” 

Moses supervised the cleanup of brushy and overgrown areas; managed the rebuilding of the poultry, dairy and beef cow units; added two farm shop and shelter units; and refurbished the swine and small ruminant units.

He opened the farm to tours, hosting more than 2,500 grade and high school students each year and providing a unique space for 4-H members, university students, community growers and farmers statewide to come together to learn and practice agriculture.

He brought innovative techniques to the farm, including the use of no-till farming to minimize erosion and the use of cover crops to control weeds instead of chemicals. Partly through the farm’s education efforts, the practice has brought great changes to agriculture across the state, Moses said.

“All of Eastern N.C. is no-till now, and that practice was sparked by what we were doing here on our farm,” he said.

He raised the bar for the farm staff, instituting a system of monthly reporting and requiring the entire staff – including himself – to learn to track farm activities digitally.

“For the longest time, we didn’t have the campus network out here,” Leon said. “We all had to learn, and I learned right along with them, how to use software to keep track of our produce, projects and accounting.”

Jean Reese, administrative assistant on the farm, has known Moses for about 16 years. Having a lion for a boss was a great experience, she said.

“Leon is a boss that takes care of his employees and looks out for them,” she said. “He has a sign in his office that reads, "When a Brave Man Takes a Stand, The Spines of Others Are Stiffened." I truly can say that Leon has been that brave man who has taken a stand for the N.C.  A&T State University Farm and taught us all Aggie Pride.”

In 2018, he oversaw the groundbreaking for the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences’ new Research and Extension Farm Pavilion, a $6 million, $17,000 structure used to conduct research and deliver educational programming to students, growers and community members.

“The Pavilion was a 20-year dream come true,” said Moses, who also served on the building’s planning committee. “To see it become reality, and know its importance to community engagement – it’s almost surreal.”

Moses came to the farm in 1976, the beginning of his freshman year, as a passenger in a car driven by his brother Ben, a junior animal science major. Ben Moses was a student worker at the farm, and on the way to campus, he stopped to introduce his little brother around. The rest is history.

“I didn’t think he’d stay at the farm, but I knew he wasn’t coming back to Northampton County,” said Ben Moses, who farms soybeans and produce on 2,700 acres in Rich Square, N.C. “He’s an innovative thinker and one of the smartest people I know.”

Moses became a student worker, and then after graduation, a research assistant, working on a project to develop a variety of alfalfa that would be resistant to weevils. Later, with another researcher, he helped to study no-till practices.

“Leon was a cocky little fellow,” said former department chair Godfrey Gayle. “But I knew he had the skills I was looking for, so I got him on my project. I’ve been very impressed with the direction he has taken the farm since. He was in the right place when he got into agriculture.”

Moses’ work ethic and commitment as a research assistant brought him to the attention of then-Dean Alton Thompson, Ph.D. Years later, Thompson elevated Moses to farm superintendent.

“He has made the farm an integral part of the CAES, as it should be,” Thompson said. “It’s one of the most visible parts of the college to all external audiences, and thanks to him, it not only integrates research, teaching and extension, it makes an impressive impression.”

In 2002, Thompson appointed Leon to a task force to improve the farm’s appearance and utility.

“He went well beyond what we gave him to do,” Thompson said. “He also handled resources quite well.”

For the Moses family, the farm has been a constant for three generations.

“My kids don’t know that it’s A&T’s farm, they think it’s grandpa’s farm,” said son Leon Moses Jr. “My sister and I grew up there, fishing in the pond, riding on the tractors. It has been a huge part of our entire family’s life.”

“I’m so extremely proud of my daddy,” said daughter Leonyce Moses. “He’s done some amazing things during his tenure at A&T, and the farm has been his truest love.”

“I’ll be excited to have him at home,” said wife Iris Moses, who retired from A&T three years ago. “Farms don’t run themselves, so it’s hard to do things like take a long trip when there’s a farm with needs. He’s given A&T all these years, and really given his heart. Now, I’m going to try to get him on an airplane a little.”

Although retirement will be bittersweet, Moses said, his legacy will be his work.

“When I leave, I want my team to know that we created a farm unmatched in the state,” Moses said. “I always say, ‘Excellence is not an accident.’ A place lives by standards. I want my legacy to be that I raised the farm to a high standard and never let it drop, and that I left this place a whole lot better off than I found it.”

“Leon and the farm are almost inseparable. But now that we have to separate, we thank him for the roots of quality he’s planted at the farm and the new growth he’s nurtured there,” said Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “There’s no one like Leon; he’s a one-and-only.

“From N.C. A&T, and from me personally: Thank you, thank you, thank you.”


Media Contact Information: jmhowse@ncat.edu

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