Brumfield leaving agency to serve up catering career

Published 5:00 am Thursday, June 8, 2006

Cooperative Extension Service Director Perry Brumfield isretiring after more than 15 years of service to Lincoln County.

The long-time county agent said he is leaving to pursue aninterest in starting a catering business.

“This is an opportunity they put on my plate and it was hard toturn down,” said Brumfield, laughing at the inadvertent pun.

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The idea to open a catering business came from the many peoplehe cooked for during his time working for the extension service, hesaid.

“I do cooking all over the county for different programs andI’ve been told I’m pretty good,” he said. “Now, we’ll see.”

Brumfield’s latest cooking endeavor was for extension service’sDairy Day earlier this month at the Lincoln County Multi-UseFacility. He cooked beef brisket and several sides for dairyfarmers and officials who attended the event.

Brumfield, a native of Tylertown, has 15 years in LincolnCounty, but more than 26 years with the extension service. Hestarted in Columbia as an assistant county agent in 1980 and becamea county agent in Kemper County in 1985.

Brumfield came to Lincoln County in 1991 as an area agentcovering the agricultural program both here and in LawrenceCounty.

In 1996, Brumfield was selected as the county coordinator, whichput him in charge of the local offices for Lincoln and Lawrencecounties.

He wasn’t disappointed when the Lawrence County office splitfrom the Lincoln County office in the late 1990s when a countyagent was hired there.

“We had been experimenting with dual counties because of adownsizing, but it was really too much,” he said.

There have been a lot of changes in both the extension serviceand farming over the past quarter century, the agent said.

“The biggest change is the decline of farming over the years,”Brumfield said.

In the early 1990s, for example, Lincoln County boasted 85 to 90dairy farms. There are now only about 25, he said.

Even with the Lincoln County decline in dairy farmers, thecounty is still ranked second among milk-producing counties in thestate. The dairy industry is a good indicator of farming’s rapidlyshrinking share of the marketplace, Brumfield said.

The farming decline does not lessen the extension service’simpact on counties, however. The county agent said it simply putsmore focus on other services.

“We stay busy, but the overall picture has declined. What we’reseeing now is a lot of calls on home loans and horticulture,”Brumfield said. “People are trying to improve the value of theirhomes.”

Brumfield said he has no immediate plans to leave LincolnCounty, but added there was a lot of catering competition here andhis plans may change.

His wife, Ann, teaches nursing at Hinds Community College andhis two children also work outside the county. Daughter Amber Smithteaches in Memphis and son Perry Dwayne is a student at MississippiState University.

Brumfield praised the organizations and volunteers he’s workedwith here over the years. He said without their efforts some of theprograms started under his tenure would not have been possible.

The Forestry Association, Cattleman’s Association and the MasterGardener’s Club were all organized in the past few years, althoughBrumfield was quick to add that work to create the ForestryAssociation had already begun when he came to Lincoln County.

He was especially proud of the four-year-old Master Gardenerprogram, he said.

“We started with only a few and have a good number of membersnow,” Brumfield said. “We have one of the strongest programs in thestate. Already we have people serving on the state board fromhere.”

The extension service director said he expects his position willbe filled by August.

“Whoever comes in will need to come in strong and roll theirsleeves up. We’re a busy county,” he said.

In the meantime, Natasha Haynes, the area nutritionist, will actas Lincoln County’s director, Brumfield said.