From hay field to greener pasture
Agronomy graduate’s club involvement, work ethic lead to job
by NATHAN KELLY
When Jordan and Melissa Toombs married in 2008, Toombs had one major goal: to get his new bride through her final two years of college. But for Toombs, accomplishing one goal means setting another, which is how he wound up where he is today: a 2013 Auburn University College of Agriculture agronomy alumnus who, even before he graduated in May, had a solid job with a solid company waiting for him in Dothan.
Though Toombs had taken some college courses out of high school, his priority once married was for Melissa to continue working toward her nursing degree at the University of North Alabama. To make that happen, Toombs, who grew up working on the family dairy farm in Columbia, Tenn., decided to start his own hay production and harvest business in Florence.
With his farming background, Toombs had the know-how to manage a farm; what he didn’t have were land and equipment. So he worked out a deal with his father such that dad would help son get both in exchange for a share of Toombs’ crop.
“It was a sweet deal for someone right out of high school,” says Toombs, now 25. “I’d help my dad out with my first cut, since he helped me with starting the business. Other than that, I had to buy my own diesel and took care of all the equipment.”
In 2010, Toombs achieved his just-married goal when Melissa graduated from UNA. That’s when he realized he had a decision to make: Should he continue growing his successful hay business? Or should he take a leap of faith and pursue a college degree of his own?
“Hay production was a big part of my life and was proof that I could start my own business, and I needed that at the time,” Toombs says. “But since we were living in Alabama, and since I had always wanted to go to Auburn for agriculture and now had in-state tuition, there was no doubt that we would be heading to Auburn.”
There was no doubt, either, that he would major in agronomy.
“From an early age, I learned how things work on a farm, and I got very comfortable with most of our equipment and learned the work ethic it takes to have a farm,” he says. “The areas I needed help in were, ‘How do the crops grow?’ and ‘What can I do to help them grow better?’ Those questions led me to Auburn agronomy.”
At Auburn, Toombs immediately got involved in the Agronomy Club and soon was elected club president. He says his involvement in that organization paid off big-time.
“The Agronomy Club is the reason I landed a job out of college,” he says. “If you’re a student at Auburn and aren’t taking advantage of the clubs for your department or major, then you’re missing out on one of the best resources on campus.”
One day during a College of Ag career fair, Toombs visited with representatives from Helena Chemical Company, a leading distributor of crop protection and crop production inputs and services for agricultural markets. Apparently, Helena Chemical was impressed with Toombs’ club leadership role and the strong work ethic he had developed growing up on a farm because by the time he graduated from Auburn in May 2013, he had a job with Helena as a sales representative, working in the company’s Dothan location.
“Helena is a good fit for me,” Toombs says. “It’s a family-oriented company that is a great environment to grow and move up in.”
Meanwhile, the Toombses have a new educational goal: In July, Melissa was accepted into the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s nurse practitioner program, and because much of the coursework is online, the couple will remain in Dothan and Toombs with Helena.
“The way I’ve approached decisions and goals in my life is, if a door opens for you, don’t slam it in the person’s face,” he says. “I’ll get to stay on with Helena and begin building my career while Melissa gets one step closer to her dream and our goal together.”
OFFICE OF AG COMMUNICATIONS & MARKETING
Auburn University College of Agriculture
Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station
3 COMER HALL
AUBURN, AL 36849