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Phli and Reid Torrance

Personnel Profiles

Reid and Phil Torrance

Some Extension employees consider their co-workers as close as family. For Reid and Phil Torrance, that's actually true. The brothers are the fifth and sixth members in two generations of their family to work with UGA Extension.

"It's a classic Extension story," says Reid, Tattnall County's Extension coordinator and a Vidalia onion specialist. "My dad, his brother, and their two sisters all worked for Extension. He never would have gone to college without encouragement from his Extension agent, and he and his siblings were all Master 4-H'ers."

Growing up in Athens, Ga., Reid and Phil had no first-hand experience with farming. But the brothers liked being outside and the idea of growing their own food appealed to them, so when Phil suggested they major in agronomy at UGA, they did.

Thus began two careers in Extension totaling more than 61 years. Starting out working as county ANR/4-H agents was "kind of like it was growing up," says Phil, the ANR program development coordinator for the UGA Extension Southeast District. "We were and still are real close."

Through the years, Reid and Phil have had the chance to work on many projects and get an up-close view of how Extension has adapted as times change. Reid cites his work establishing the Vidalia Onion and Vegetable Research Center as one of his proudest achievements because of the knowledge and support the center brings to Georgia's $100 million Vidalia onion industry. Phil has seen technology revolutionize the way farmers and agents communicate with each other.

At the end of the day, though, the brothers say it's the human relationships that make their jobs special. "Those kids could build you up and then get you so down — sometimes in the same hour," remembers Reid, talking about his work with 4-H. "But that's what I look back most fondly on. Where I had the most impact."

Phil agrees, citing the friendships he made with local farmers as a meaningful part of his job. "I got to eat a lot of meals at a lot of tables," he says, reflecting on the families and farmers he helped as an ANR agent.

Whatever the brothers' work with Extension entailed, no two days were ever alike. Phil talks about a lady and her husband who were plagued with a mysterious itch. After searching for evidence of pests and treating the house failed to clear things up, Phil began to wonder if the problem was all in their heads. But he saw the couple's distress and persisted, calling the UGA Entomology Department, the CDC, and finally tracking down an expert in Colorado. Finally, the problem was pinned on a rodent trapped under the house by floodwaters, something that a less diligent agent might have missed.

"People really appreciate what you do," Reid said. "Especially at the county level. Our network of expertise is something to be envied. People definitely support it."

These days, Phil spends his time helping agents be more effective with program planning, training and consulting. Reid, who is semi-retired, continues his work as Tattnall County's "onion guy" and has a "second part-time job" preparing his fields for dove hunting in the fall. The brothers enjoy hunting, fishing, golfing, and kayaking together, spending time with their families, and talking with their dad about Extension's past and future.

When asked if they have any plans to continue the Torrance Extension tradition, the brothers laugh and say they'll let their children decide. Given that Reid's son is a CAES Horticulture major and Phil's daughter is the president of her senior high 4-H club, it's just possible that there will be a third generation of Torrances to carry on the family tradition.

(Written by Robin Pratt, Office of Communications and Technology Services.)

Released September 2011.