It seems like Jeb Fields has been preparing for his career at the LSU AgCenter his entire life.
Fields, 34, grew up around his family’s tractor dealership and retail plant nursery and then built his knowledge in college and graduate school while working in research labs and fields.
Since joining the AgCenter as an assistant professor and extension specialist in 2018, he serves as the director of the ornamental trial gardens at the Hammond Research Station and is the chair of the Louisiana Super Plants program.
“The position I have now was the exact dream position I could have at any university,” Fields said.
Raised in central Florida, Fields became an Eagle Scout and worked in the citrus groves, ripping out vines and other odd jobs. He also was employed at his uncle’s golf driving range. This all led Fields to become interested in agriculture and the environment.
When Fields started college at the University of Florida, his love of plants and background in agriculture lured him to major in horticulture and study citrus and turfgrass.
“I just love being in nature,” Fields said. “I love being outside. I love big ag and working together with growers.”
After graduating he worked at a University of Florida citrus research station and then moved to North Carolina State University, where he focused on container plant production and greenhouse floriculture for his master’s degree.
While earning his doctorate at Virginia Tech, Fields studied with the state nursery extension specialist. Fields enjoyed the role of extension — conducting research with growers in mind and helping nurseries and farmers solve problems.
Through his research, Fields became interested in helping the nursery industry become sustainable by reducing water and fertilizer in production. His doctoral research focused on engineering potting soils and soilless media — the substrate, as horticulturists call it — to retain and distribute water and fertilizer more efficiently so less of these crucial resources leach away.
Sustainable production benefits the environment, Fields said, but it also reduces production costs.
“Our nursery industry, especially in Louisiana and the South, is growing at a rapid pace,” Fields said. “We have to focus on sustainable environmental production to keep this industry thriving.”
After finishing his doctorate in 2016, Fields considered job offers from several universities. The position at the AgCenter seemed tailor-made for him.
Managing the verdant trial gardens at the Hammond Research Station was a dream position for Fields. He continues to research sustainable nursery practices, and he has been named the AgCenter contact for citrus production, too.
Also, as the chair of the Louisiana Super Plants program, Fields feels privileged to promote the eye-catching ornamental Louisiana-friendly plants tested by AgCenter researchers.
“People are very excited about Super Plants,” he said. “I constantly get asked to go talk about them throughout the state.”
An avid hunter and fisherman, Fields felt at home in Louisiana, and it was close to his family in Florida. Plus, the Hammond Research Station is one of the most picturesque postings at the AgCenter, with its huge live oak trees and sprawling gardens.
“If you’re having a bad morning or anything,” Fields said, “when you drive past these gardens to work every day, I mean, you can’t beat that.”
Kyle Peveto is an assistant specialist with LSU AgCenter Communications and the assistant editor of Louisiana Agriculture.
(This article was published in the winter 2020 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
Jeb Fields manages the trial gardens at the AgCenter Hammond Research Station. Photo by Kyle Peveto