Greene Co. extension office breaks ground

by George Jared ([email protected]) 652 views 

Ground has been broken on the new Greene County Extension office in Paragould.

“Greene County, for the extension office, for 4-H, for Master Gardeners, for our farming community and so many others, because this is going to be a structure that can be utilized by so many people,” Greene County Judge Rusty McMillon said. “Anytime we can move forward with something like this in Greene County, it’s a monumental occasion,” McMillon said. “We love to see growth such as this.”

Lance Blythe, Greene County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the groundbreaking marks the realization of a longtime goal.

“I’ve had about 10 people pinch me today and go, is this really happening? After many years of hard work, perseverance and searching for a new location, it’s finally happening,” Blythe told attendees. “We’re so thankful, and we are humbled by all the community support that we’ve received to reach this point in the process.”

Blythe said the extension office moved from its original location in the Greene County Courthouse to the Federal Building — which houses a U.S. Post Office — in 1979. The office moved to a temporary location in November 2022, where it will remain until construction is completed on the new facility on FairField Road.

Blythe said construction is slated to be complete in just over a year. The new office will house five Division of Agriculture staff, as well as an additional county agent Blythe said he hopes to hire soon.

Jonathon Davis, justice of the peace for District 4 in Greene County, said that since he came into office in 2015, he and many other community stakeholders have been searching for a new location for the Greene County Extension Office, as well as the funds to support it.

“I’m reminded of all the times somebody got frustrated because this project just wasn’t moving on,” Davis said. “But as Aristotle said, ‘Patience is bitter, but its fruit is so sweet.’ So here we are today, after all of these years of trying to figure out this problem, and we’re going to have one of the greatest facilities of any extension office in the state of Arkansas on this beautiful piece of property.”

Blythe said the fruition of this project is due in part to the significant support the extension office receives from the City of Paragould.

“It’s kind of rare in an extension where we not only have county support and Quorum Court support, but we’re also supported by the city of Paragould,” he said. “They help us with our agent salaries and with many projects in town. The city council is very supportive, so we’re really blessed in this community to have people with vision and who have the ability to work with one another.”

Bob Scott, senior associate vice president for agriculture and extension for the Division of Agriculture, said this collaboration is critical to the success of the extension’s mission.

“I’m amazed at the support from Greene County, the city of Paragould and the quorum court, and really just on behalf of the Cooperative Extension Service, a big ‘thank you’ to Greene County,” Scott said. “Y’all are an excellent example of the partnerships that it takes, and without those partnerships, I don’t know what our extension service would look like.

“I know this building, to all of you guys, represents a working place, where samples can come in, you can come get help and have meetings,” he said. “To me, it represents support. And that’s what I’m going to take back to the extension office — the amazing support that I’ve seen.”

Blythe also noted that Greene County has been home to extension staff for more than 110 years, even before the passage of the Smith-Lever Act, which is the federal law that established a system of cooperative extension services associated with land-grant institutions.

“Some of you may not know, but we’ve had an extension presence in this county since 1912,” Blythe said. “The Smith-Lever Act wasn’t passed until 1914, but we had an extension agriculture person here two years prior to that. We’ve been here for a minute, and we want to be here for a long time to come.”