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Extension director shares thoughts on career

Rick Cartwright set to retire from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service in June.

Forrest Laws

May 21, 2020

If Rick Cartwright had it to do all over again, he would start his career with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture with today’s data management technology rather than what was available 40 years ago.

Cartwright, who is retiring as director of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service June 30, shared his thoughts as he nears the end of his career with participants in the Arkansas Soil and Water Education Conference in Jonesboro, Ark.

“The technology for measurement today or for data management — I just wish that had been available when I started,” said Cartwright, who joined the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service as a rice disease specialist in 1992. “It’s just very amazing what you can keep up with and monitor today.”

Cartwright discussed the new University of Arkansas Rice Research and Extension Center, which will be located just south of Jonesboro on the Craighead-Poinsett County Line. It is the only such facility being constructed in the U.S. at this time.

“We are very grateful to have Dr. Tim Burcham on our team,” said Cartwright. “He is such a great person, and a great person to work with. I’m not sure Tim that project wouldn’t get off the ground if you weren’t hands on.”

The Research and Extension Center, which is being funded both by the university and the Arkansas Rice Foundation, represents forward thinking by Arkansas’ rice producers, Cartwright said.

“The rice farmers of this state have always impressed me — like many of our producers,” he said. “They don’t just think about the here and now. They think about the next generation and the next generation beyond that.

“That investment in local research and education will be very powerful to your children and your grandchildren and those that are dependent on agriculture. That’s a great thing, and we need to be doing more of that kind of stuff.”

Speaking of helping farmers now and in the future, Cartwright referenced an earlier presentation by Tommy Jumper, president of Delta Peanut’s new processing plant in Jonesboro.

“This is conceptually a very important thing to talk about to me,” he noted. “I grew up in row crop production, whether I was in California where I trained in rice or here. We would grow a commodity and ship it out, and we would keep the lowest possible value for our farmers.

“That investment in a value-added industry, local value-added, capturing that value and keeping it here. We need to be doing that on more crops and not just peanuts, which is very important to Arkansas.”

About the Author(s)

Forrest Laws

Forrest Laws spent 10 years with The Memphis Press-Scimitar before joining Delta Farm Press in 1980. He has written extensively on farm production practices, crop marketing, farm legislation, environmental regulations and alternative energy. He resides in Memphis, Tenn. He served as a missile launch officer in the U.S. Air Force before resuming his career in journalism with The Press-Scimitar.

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