New county agent excited to return to NW Arkansas
He may not have a black belt in karate, but Bruce Lee does have a green belt in agriculture.
Recently brought on as the new Carroll County agriculture extension agent, Lee said he is excited to get back to Arkansas after years of teaching in Mississippi.
He and his wife of 32 years hail from Arkansas; Lee called Northwest Arkansas their "stomping ground." For several years, his family lived in Benton County, where he worked for Tyson Foods. He later took a job teaching agriculture at Fourche Valley High School in Yell County.
Lee, who holds a bachelor's degree in general agriculture and a master's degree in agriculture education from Murray State University, taught at the small school for 15 years until it was closed and consolidated.
"When we closed, we were about the smallest school in Arkansas that was still open at the time. We had around 18 kids in a class," he recalled.
He continued teaching agriculture, opting for higher education this time. For five years, Lee taught animal science and agriculture business courses at Northwest Mississippi Community College. He also served as the school's intercollegiate rodeo coach.
"I loved teaching. I loved the kids," he said.
Though he enjoyed teaching, Lee said constantly traveling with the rodeo team took a toll on him. He spent seven and a half months in hotels and on the road during those five years.
"When you're young, that sounds exciting. But when you get my age and you're gone, everything goes wrong," he said. "The washing machine springs a leak. The lawn mower quits. My car's making a funny noise."
Lee doesn't have to travel anymore. As Carroll County's agriculture extension agent, he can stay in Northwest Arkansas exclusively. He described his day-to-day activities, saying that no two days are the same.
"Some days I'm working with 4-H and youth in the county and some days I'm working with the Master Gardeners," he said.
He added that he also helps individuals having problems gardening or farming, serving as a liaison between the agriculture specialists at the University of Arkansas and the Carroll County community.
He said he enjoys the importance his new employer places on agriculture. Teaching agriculture at the university level, he explained, often meant being relegated to the lowest rungs of the ladder.
"I wanted to work someplace where agriculture is a priority," he said. "I'm looking forward to working with the Master Gardeners, the 4-H kids and helping the farmers and ranchers around here the best I can."
Lee acknowledged the adjustments one must undergo when taking on a new job but said that he is enjoying his work so far. He noted how much his family enjoys Northwest Arkansas.
"We love the Ozarks," he said. "I like the agriculture. It's a nice mix of cattle and poultry over here, and the community kind of harkens back to simpler life," he said.
He and his wife have one daughter at home, a 16-year-old who is attending Berryville High School. They are also closer to their grandchildren, who live in Siloam Springs with their son and daughter-in-law.
"If we could ever tempt them to move back just for the grandkids, this would be perfect," he said.
Lee will host a meet and greet Monday at the Carroll County Extension Office.