Clark Israelsen new column mug

Clark Israelsen

Editor's note: Long-time Cache County Extension agent and Herald Journal agricultural columnist Clark Israelsen is retiring. Following is his farewell column:

The oft quoted Author Unknown has said, “The best time to start thinking about your retirement is before the boss does.”

As such, I’ve decided the time has come for me to step aside so a less experienced — though likely more capable — person can take my place. I’m not sure if retirement means a prolonged holiday, or if it’s the official act of being thrown on the scrap-heap. I must admit I don’t move as quickly as I once did so it’s best I step aside.

Someone told me the other day that I haven’t changed in 30 years. Knowing that statement could be interpreted multiple ways, I did not ask for an explanation. Gratefully I do enjoy good health and I have lots of valued friends. I trust folks will be willing to visit with me if I get bored during coming days when duties are less than they have been in past years. I hope I can continue to be useful somewhere and I also hope that my wife, Marsha, will be patient with me as I attempt to learn new routines. I might upset her favorite routines, too.

I have really enjoyed 44 years of professional service in beautiful Cache Valley — and especially appreciate association with valued friends in the agricultural community. I readily admit that I have learned more from them than they have learned from me. It was only yesterday that I finished my BS and MS degrees at Utah State University in agricultural education. I almost went to The Ohio State University to work on a Ph.D. but decided I liked Cache Valley too much to leave. I have no regrets about my decision to stay.

For 10 years I taught vocational agriculture at Sky View High School and Mountain Crest High School. I loved working with the students and faculties there and have thrilled over the years to see so many of my students excel and become leaders in their chosen professions. A good share of them are still involved in agricultural pursuits and have done exceptionally well in managing large operations and related agricultural industries. They understand the words of E. M. Tiffany, as learned in the memorized FFA Creed, knowing the “joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement (they) cannot deny.” David Erickson, a former student of mine has been an agriculture instructor at Sky View for decades and provides wonderful leadership in the community as a member of the county council. He is one example of many former students who are almost like children to me. I’m brazen enough to take at least a little credit for their success and I’m always delighted to see them and to learn of their accomplishments.

Richard Maughan took a chance on me in 1985 when he hired me to teach adult farm business management classes at Bridgerland Applied Technology College. For 15 years I drove from farm to farm helping agricultural families computerize their farm financial records. It was an exciting time as we were all just learning how to use computers. When we started we were using big bulky monitors, computers and printers that were too big to even fit in the trunk of the car. We filled the back seat and the trunk with hardware and thought we were modern and progressive. It was always quite a process to get everything unloaded, positioned on the kitchen table, properly connected, data entered and reports printed. We’ve come a long way since then as my little iPad does more now than all the machines we used to drag around with us.

I really came to appreciate the management abilities of most of the farmers and ranchers I worked with. They were savvy and progressive and most were quite successful in what they did. I was honored that they would trust me with private and confidential information. I don’t believe I ever violated that trust. Members of our advisory committee also became valued friends and mentors. We learned a lot from each other as we met regularly. As BATC department head of farm and ranch management, one of the first people I hired as a new instructor was David Brown, a promising young university student from Coalville. Over the years, David has become a dear friend and has excelled in every way. David is now president and CEO of Western Ag Credit, a premier agricultural lender in the state of Utah. I really liked working with administrators, faculty and students at BATC.

For the past 19 years I have enjoyed working for Utah State University in Cache County as an agricultural Extension agent. Each day is unique and different and it seems well-laid plans often get altered as the crisis of the day becomes the priority. Every phone call and every office or farm visit is challenging and rewarding for me and hopefully for others. I am a generalist who knows a little about a lot of things but not very much about anything. Gratefully we have USU Extension specialists on campus that provide the depth and the detail to problems we deal with. I’ve received quite an education as I’ve been student more often than teacher. I sincerely hope that my efforts have been acceptable, but I know I have sometimes let others down, or at least been a disappointment when I could not provide answers to pressing questions. I sincerely apologize to those who have been disappointed with my activities or efforts.

I will miss daily association with the diversity of people I’ve worked with. I’ll also miss traveling all over the Cache County inspecting fields, animals and farmsteads. I’m sure I’ve been on every road in the county multiple times, and I know where most people live in the rural parts of the county. We really do live in a beautiful place and among wonderfully good people.

Thanks for the memories and thanks for your friendship. It’s all passed so quickly and I’ve enjoyed almost every day. There is an old proverb that says, “One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.” My day has been most splendid and rewarding. I’m not so sure I’d change a thing.

Clark Israelsen is a Cache County Extension agent specializing in agriculture.