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New Staff November 2008

New Hampshire Welcomes New Staff

November 9, 2008


New Hampshire NRCS continues to grow, adding three new positions across the state and filling an important leadership role.


Rick Ellsmore
Assistant State Conservationist � Operations


Rick returns to New Hampshire after serving as the State Resource Conservationist for Ohio since 2005. Other positions with SCS/NRCS include District Conservationist in three of New Hampshire�s counties (Carroll, Rockingham, and Strafford); and as a Soil Conservationist in two Maine counties (Aroostook and Penobscot). He has also served on several National Headquarters details including the National Efficiency Team, East Region Technology Workgroup, 2009 Farm Bill Team, and a 60-day detail on the Programs Staff.


Rick grew up in Eastern Maine and graduated from the University of Maine with a B.S. in Forestry. His personal interests include coaching sports, hiking, movies, travel, reading, and the outdoors. Rick and his wife, Denise, have two daughters, Erika and Nicole.


Donna Doel

Soil Conservationist



Donna grew up in rural central Maine.  She attended the University of Maine where she studied Plant Science and later completed an M.S. degree in Soil Science.  She left Maine to take a position with the ATTRA Program which was located in northwest Arkansas.  ATTRA at that time was a national center for information on alternative and sustainable agriculture.  She worked as a technical specialist, gathering information and responding to farmers and others in agriculture who were seeking  information on alternative crops, organic agriculture practices, sustainable nutrient management, recycling and composting as well as questions on grassed-based livestock systems, and organic dairy production, as well as just about every other inquiry in between these subjects.  Several years later, Donna also began her other career passion � dairy farming and cheesemaking.   She owned and operated a 45 head commercial goat dairy and cheesemaking operation, obtaining 4 national product awards for her cheeses.  In 2004, she decided to return back to the Northeast to be closer to family and her roots.  Upon her return she first worked as a contract organic dairy farm inspector all over the state of Maine for Maine�s organic certifying agent, MOFGA Certification Services.  Later she was hired to work on their staff as Associate Director of Livestock Certification, responsible for Maine�s organic dairy compliance program.  She has worked previously with NRCS Soil Survey as a soil scientist, mapping in the North Maine Woods region of Aroostook County working out of the Presque Isle, Maine office.

Donna is absolutely delighted to be located in the Woodsville, New Hampshire NRCS office in her new position as a Soil Conservationist.  Grafton County is a spectacularly beautiful area and she has enjoyed meeting the farming community.  It is the perfect place to indulge all of her outdoor interests which include cycling, X-country skiing, hiking, and (with a lot more practice) kayaking.  Domestically, she hopes to have a small farm again but for now is happy with her new cat companion.  

Brandon Smith

Conservation Agronomist



Brandon is a New Hampshire native and is very happy to return to his home state to work with the NRCS.  Brandon earned a Bachelors of Science in Horticulture & Agronomy from the University of New Hampshire in 1997.  As an undergraduate student, he also worked at the UNH Woodman Horticultural farm where he helped maintain fruit and vegetable plots for both field and high tunnel production research.  When he finished his degree, Brandon was hired by Alan Eaton as an integrated pest management field technician with UNH Cooperative Extension.  He scouted for insect pests of horticultural and agronomic crops, helped introduce and monitor beneficial insects, and conducted weed surveys.

After working with Alan Eaton, Brandon spent four years as a research technician for Paul Fisher at the UNH greenhouses.  He was supported by a sustainable horticulture endowment to research methods for biological control of insect and disease pests, and to develop nutrient management programs and micro-irrigation systems for greenhouse crops.  While he was employed as a research technician, Brandon also earned a Masters of Science in Plant Biology.  His thesis focused on pH management and micronutrient nutrition of container-grown greenhouse crops.

Brandon left NH in 2002 to begin a Ph.D. with Lailiang Cheng at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.  His dissertation research dealt with the impact of soil pH and iron deficiency on chlorosis, photosynthesis, and the antioxidant system of �Concord� grapevines.  During his research he found that yellow (or chlorotic) leaves suffering from iron deficiency could actually contain more total iron than healthy green leaves.  This situation makes diagnosis of actual iron deficiency quite difficult, and to help overcome this problem, he developed a method to extract bio-available iron from leaves.  Brandon completed his doctorate in 2006. 

Most recently, Brandon was a research assistant professor of organic and alternative crop production at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.  He established and began transitioning a 21-acre research farm to certified organic production.  Brandon�s research at the University of TN focused on cover crop management, conservation farming, and season extension.  He was involved with reduced-till/no-till vegetable and agronomic crop production, and developed a passion for using cover crops to improve soil fertility, enhance beneficial insect populations, and manage weeds.

Brandon is truly excited about cover crops and conservation farming and looks forward to working with farmers, educators, and NRCS staff in New Hampshire.  He and his dog Cassidy live in Rye (a fittingly named town for a cover crop enthusiast).

Philip Durgin



Philip hails from Spokane, Washington. He attended Washington State University with degrees in Civil Engineering and Spanish. He is excited to be in the Northeast and looks forward to working with the NRCS engineering staff in New Hampshire.

In his spare time, Philip enjoys a variety of outdoor activities including mountain biking, skiing, and sports in general.


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