Bates ready to ‘hit ground running’ as new extension director

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rebecca Bates has something more to look forward to than holidaycheer as the days of December tick away the last of 2006.

Bates, of the Ole Brook community, has been selected to replacethe retired Perry Brumfield as area director of the MississippiState University Extension Service office. She officially moves inJan. 3, but has already begun remodeling the office so it will beready for her to “hit the ground running.”

“I’ve got a lot of groundwork to get caught up on by January,”she said.

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Bates was complimentary of Brumfield’s long service andexpressed a desire to continue many of the programs he implementedin the area.

“It’s a concern of everyone’s that the family farm is not amajor industry like it used to be,” she said. “Maybe publiceducation of the importance of all facets of agriculture – fromdairy to beef to forestry – and support of the extension servicecan make a difference.”

An eighth-generation Mississippian who was raised in Starkville,Bates said the director’s position nearly makes her life come fullcircle.

“It’s kind of like I’ve been walking in a circle the past fewyears,” she said. “I’m back where I started.”

After graduating 1982 with a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultureand a Master’s degree in 1989 in horticulture from MSU, Bates’first job was with the extension service.

“I was project director at the Ag Incubator at Winston andKemper counties,” she said. “It was a project for vegetable growersin those counties.”

The incubator researched commercial vegetable production ofcorn, tomatoes, peppers, okra, watermelon and peas, she said.

And the results of the study?

“Maybe they taught me more than I taught them,” Bates said witha laugh. “I was a new graduate, then.”

Bates stayed at the incubator for three years before accepting apost in 1991 as the horticulture agent for Hinds, Rankin andMadison counties.

She held that post until 1993, when she moved to Pass Christianand taught for four years at Mississippi Gulf Coast CommunityCollege.

Prior to accepting the position of director with the LincolnCounty Extension Service, Bates was living in Baton Rouge, La., andteaching at Southeast Louisiana University while her husband, Drew,taught at Louisiana State University.

In 2003, Drew accepted a position with MSU as the areahorticulturist for the Southwest District, with an office locatedin Jackson. The job change prompted the Bateses to move from BatonRouge to a more centrally located area.

“We looked on the map to decide what was halfway between Jacksonand Hammond and, after a few visits, decided on Brookhaven,” shesaid. “We liked the looks of Brookhaven and have been very happyhere. This is a beautiful town. It’s progressive. That’s why wechose Brookhaven.”

Bates said the couple was most impressed with the constantbeautification and historic preservation efforts of thecommunity.

“Community pride is very evident in Lincoln County,” shesaid.

When the director’s job opened up with Brumfield’s retirement,Bates said she had to apply. She hopes working closer to home willallow her to become more active in the community and to assist withthe projects that drew her to the area.

“I’m excited about doing that,” she said. “I’ve been commutingto Hammond for so long there just wasn’t time. I’m looking forwardto finally being able to become more of a part of where Ilive.”

Bates said the only charitable organization she is presently amember of is the Brookhaven Animal Rescue League, where she jokedshe’s the “chief pen cleaner.”

The couple has no children, but do have three dogs and a cat tocare for, she said.