After 14 years helping farmers, ranchers, 4-H and FFA members and every other imaginable person with a hand in the local agribusiness industry, Larry Spradlin officially stepped down Tuesday as Hopkins County’s Agriculture Extension Agent.
Spradlin, 55, made the decision several months ago to retire after a long and much appreciated career helping others in Hopkins County.
Well-wishers joined friends and co-workers at the Extension office Tuesday to bid farewell to the man who has helped so many, from the dairy farmers struggling to survive in a changing business climate to the youngsters who have taken part in the annual junior livestock show that generates hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
“Without a doubt, I have enjoyed working with the people of Hopkins County, and especially our youth,” Spradlin said recently. “Very rewarding.”
Spradlin was in charge of a local feed store in 1995 when former Precinct 4 Commissioner Calvin Prince approached him, looking for a steady and capable hand to replace the beloved but retiring Tommy Barker in the county agent’s post.
One of Spradlin’s priorities when he took over the position was to promote the Northeast Texas Livestock Association’s annual Junior Market Livestock Show. Even though Hopkins County continued to be one of the most productive agribusiness counties in Texas, if not the nation, participation in the show by both youngsters and sponsors had dwindled, with other nearby counties bringing in twice money as the local event. That especially stung Spradlin — he also had a career as a vocational agriculture teacher, and he knew the money budding farmers and ranchers receive for their projects often ultimately ends up helping pay for a college education.
Each year after, Spradlin would spread the word to local media, organizations and business people, drumming up a little more support every year. In 1995, when Spradlin launched his quest, there were 60 sale projects that generated $54,530 at the Sale of Champions. By 2008, the number of projects at the sale had more than doubled to 131, bringing in more than $260,000 from a myriad of sponsors and buyers. More than 250 youngsters have particpated in the show in each of the last three years.
In fact, Spradlin’s fondest memory was at the 2009 junior market show.
“When the NETLA presented me a hat at our last Hopkins County Junior Market Show, that was very special,” noted Spradlin.
The job of agriculture Extension agent, ostensibly, is to be a teacher, to reach out to others and help guide them along an uncharted path with sound advice gathered from years of experience.
“As an agent, we are supposed to teach and reach out to others,” he said recently. “But without a question, I have received more from others.”
Spradlin wrote a weekend column for the Sulphur Springs News-Telegram during his 14 years here. His last article, published March 28-29, he thanked the many people and groups he worked with through the years, from dairymen and financial specialists to forage producers and gardeners, not to mention government leaders and his many co-workers.
But the biggest appreciation was reserved for the people he lived, worked and shared with.
“Lastly, I would like to say a big THANK YOU to all of the citizens of Hopkins County,” he wrote. “I assure you that I have learned and received more from knowing you than you can ever imagine ... and if any of you get a chance, please drop by and see me.”
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