Hurst advocated artificial insemination in cattle and was instrumental in getting Southern Belle Dairy to locate in Somerset. There were 262 dairy farms in Pulaski County when Hurst ended his tenure as county Extension agent. He was a major player in getting a tobacco market in Somerset.
Keenan Turner succeeded Hurst in 1977 and Whitis became county agent in 2004. Turner faced and Whitis is facing a changing agricultural climate that sees a rapid decline in the number of family farms, a marked reduction in dairying, and perhaps most shockingly, disappearance of the traditional tobacco market.
Razed and gone are sprawling tobacco warehouses on University Drive where farm trucks, loaded with burley, waited in long lines to sell tobacco before Christmas. In their place are a senior citizens’ complex now under construction and a planned housing development.
Silenced is the chant of the tobacco auctioneer. Financially missed is receipt of the long-awaited tobacco check that paid the mortgage and bought Christmas gifts. And, nostalgically, only a sweet memory remains of the greasy spoon, but tasty warehouse restaurant.
But the work of today’s Extension Service goes on, offering more and different types of services, including:
• On-farm research test plots.
• Soil and forage testing.
• Plant disease diagnostic services.
• Pesticide certification.
• Working with county fair livestock shows and local cattlemen’s associations.
• Financial management and budgeting.
• Health and wellness programs.
• Youth programs and child care training.
• School enrichment programs.
• Master Gardener programs.
Whitis pointed out that the Extension Service strives to help people improve their lives through an informal educational process with up-to-date research-based information for all clientele.
The Extension Service provides educational programs for farmers, agribusinesses, youth and 4-H members, Whitis noted. Extension homemaker clubs, civic clubs and community development groups are planned and implemented according to needs and interests in the community, Whitis added.