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Personnel Profiles

Glenn Beard

Don't call Glenn Beard a city boy

Glenn Beard's story isn't your typical one. He didn't grow up on a farm and he wasn't active in 4-H. In fact, when he decided to pursue a career in agriculture, his aunt said, "You're a city boy, what do you know about agriculture?"

Born and raised in Tift County, calling Beard a "city boy" might be a stretch. Today, the 30-year, Georgia Extension veteran is living proof that ag can be in your blood whether or not you had a rooster for an alarm clock.

"I really got involved in agriculture when I was in high school. A lot of my buddies would sign on as summer workers at the Coastal Plain Experiment Station, so I did, too," Beard said.

Beard worked as a summer field worker on the Tifton campus in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades with Dr. Stan Kays in the horticulture department.

"He was one of the original people doing research on producing vegetables on plastic mulch and drip irrigation, and now I work in one of the biggest counties that uses plastic mulch and drip irrigation," he said.

Beard's summer ag experience led him to enroll in ABAC and begin pursuing an associate's degree in agriculture. He continued to work at the experiment station after class and during the summers with pecan researcher Dr. Ray Worley.

After ABAC, Beard transferred to UGA where he majored in agronomy and, you guessed it, worked on one of the college's research farms. During his summer breaks from UGA, he returned to Tifton and worked for Dr. Worley.

After graduation, Beard accepted a position with the Coastal Plain Experiment Station horticulture department as a research technician and worked for peach researcher Dr. Dean Evert.

"That was the first time we had peach research in Tifton. We were mainly trying to establish research peach orchards," he said.

A year and a half later (1981) he became the 4-H agent in Cook County.

"Back then, and even now, you started out as an assistant. You went in knowing what you were going to be doing – a lot of 4-H and youth work – and then worked yourself into an ag job," Beard remembers. "Now, we hire strictly 4-H or ag or FCS agents."

When the ag agent (Walt Smith) retired in 1982, Beard slid into that position.

"I enjoyed the ag work. It was a small county with a lot of agriculture and a lot of diversity. I dealt with every crop you can imagine – cotton, peanuts, corn, soybeans, tobacco and vegetables," he said.

In 1994, Beard transferred to Colquitt County where he has settled in and focused on vegetables.

"Colquitt County is the largest vegetable producer in the state, and if compared to other Southern states, except for Florida, we are by far the largest in the region. Our Farmgate Income is larger than any other county and our vegetable income is the highest in the state. It's pretty heavy duty here," he said.

A year ago the county's row crop agent, Scott Brown, retired and Beard had to become a "jack-of-all-trades."

Glenn inspects a crop"You can say you are going to work on one certain crop, but in Extension you have to have some knowledge of a lot of crops," Beard said. "Here, I cover anything from cucumbers, squash, watermelon, cantaloupes, peppers, greens, sweet corn, eggplant and cabbage to cotton, peanuts, corn and tobacco. We grow a lot of cabbage. It's one of our biggest crops. No one else really grows it."

Beard's hard work and dedication to Extension were recognized recently when he received the Walter B. Hill Award for Outstanding Public Service and Outreach.

Like most agents, Beard has answered his share of crazy calls from the public. Once, a man came in the office to tell him about his migraine headaches. "I said, 'Sir, I'm the county agent, I can't really help you with your headaches.' He said, 'Well, I've asked everyone else so I figured I'd ask you, too.' "

Sometimes Beard wonders if callers are actually one of his buddies playing a joke, but he treats each call as a serious one.

Not all outlandish questions come in over the phone lines. "Once I came into the office to find a dead fish with a knife stuck in it on my desk. There was a note attached to it that read 'What's wrong with this fish?' "

Beard enjoys helping farmers and homeowners diagnose plant problems. "I'm often called a plant doctor here. We do the same thing medical doctors do, but they take blood samples and we take soil samples. Plant diagnosis is a big part of what we do," he said.

There is one part of his job that Beard doesn't like. "Sometimes we get called into situations that land us in court, and that's just not fun at all," he said.

Like most dedicated employees, Beard struggles to create a balance between work and family/free time. "I don't do a lot of outdoorsy stuff, but I do turkey hunt a little and play a little golf," he said.

His passion lies in music and his church volunteer work. "I play a couple of instruments at church and have sung in a number of choirs," he said. Beard started singing with "The Sons of Jubal" last year after his Minister of Music recruited him at his church. The group, which began in 1956, is now performing in North Korea, without Beard. "I just couldn't take the time off," he said.

He and his wife Diane have been married for 25 years and have two daughters – Meredith, a freshman at Georgia Southern University and Emily, a freshman at Cook County High School.

Beard plans to retire next year. "I can't believe it's been 32 years since I took my last course at Georgia. I probably could have made a lot more money somewhere else, and working with the public has its issues, but that's what I have enjoyed about this job. I interacted with the public and hopefully people will think their lives are a little better, and maybe I had a dab to do with that," he said.

(Written by Sharon Dowdy, a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences)

Released April 2012.

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