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Extension Specialist – A Farmer’s Friend

If you hang around long enough in the cotton industry, you see a lot of people change careers, retire or pass away. It’s a fact of life, but it doesn’t make it any easier when the event happens. Such is the case when I recently heard that Tennessee Extension cotton specialist Chris Main had resigned his position to join the Dow PhytoGen team. We certainly can’t blame Chris for moving on to an excellent opportunity, and it’s nice to know he’ll still be located in Jackson, Tenn.

However, being a person who can get overly sentimental at times, I always feel sad when I see another friend in the cotton industry – especially an Extension specialist – leave and move on. An Extension specialist is such a vital resource for the cotton producer in today’s volatile world of agriculture. He is the one person – besides the crop consultant – who is there to give a farmer daily information and recommendations. The specialist also must be a walking, talking encyclopedia who can dispense data and conduct research trials.

Being an Extension specialist is sometimes a thankless job. The hours are long, and nobody ever said you’d get rich by pursuing this kind of career. There is usually a mountain of paperwork, reports, research trials and presentations to deal with on a non-stop basis. Let’s face it. You need to be extremely organized and a multi-tasker to be a good Extension specialist. And let’s not forget that it takes some excellent communication skills. Don’t apply for this kind of job if you don’t know how to talk to farmers. Thick skin? That also helps.

We’ve seen plenty of talented Extension cotton specialists leave their jobs and move into the private sector. I remember feeling pretty sad when Sandy Stewart (Louisiana), Robert Lemon (Texas), Chism Craig (Tennessee), Steve Brown (Georgia) and Phil Jost (Georgia) moved on to other jobs. Thankfully, I still stay in touch with these folks, but they all left behind a legacy of excellent work. Fortunately, their replacements moved in and made it a smooth transition.

Here’s hoping that the University of Tennessee can find a good person for the position that Chris Main has vacated. We will miss Chris and wish him good luck in his new career with Dow PhytoGen.