R. Gregg Hodges began his Extension career in Madison County, Mississippi, in 1971 as an assistant county agent for 4-H. He then served Franklin County, Alabama, in a similar position, followed by serving as associate county agent-ANR in Etowah County and county agent-coordinator in Cullman County.
A native of Albertville, Alabama, Hodges received a B.S. degree in animal science and an M.A. in Extension education from Mississippi State University. He also received an Eds. In administration & supervision from the University of Alabama.
Hodges’ first exposure with Extension was through a young 4-H agent named Larry McNutt, the son of a dairyman from Winston County.
“He enrolled me in 4-H, and my first interaction with Extension was through a Treflan demonstration with pimento peppers,” says Hodges. “I received the first state pimento pepper production award for having the top yield of more than 5 tons per acre in 1959. This pepper project helped earn me a trip to the Fontana Resource Development Conference for youth, held in Fontana, North Carolina.”
Hodges’ other agricultural jobs included measuring cotton, installing poultry equipment, poultry processing and livestock production on his family farm.
In addition to McNutt, Hodges says other mentors throughout his life and career include Robert I.D. Murphy, county agent-coordinator from Marshall County, T.L. Sanders, county agent-coordinator from Etowah County and others.
In recounting his proudest work accomplishments, Hodges says, “Extension is somewhat like the wind; it may not be visible, but the process and results are.”
A few of his achievements include assisting with the operation of the Cullman Feeder Pig Association, a group that served a seven-county market area; assisting with the construction and management of the
Cullman County Agriculture Trade Center, a regional location for north Alabama that has been in service for 12 years; and participating in an international humanitarian project requested by Polish authorities after the removal of the Berlin Wall.
“The primary focus of the Poland project was to de-privatize the agricultural sector,” Hodges says. “The two-man team of Georgie Young and myself were stationed in the western region of Poland. I organized the first 4-H club in Poland and was responsible for organizing a chamber of commerce for industry in Leszno. This opened the door for economic development in the western corridor of Poland.”
In October 1999, Hodges was listed among the Top 100 citizens of Cullman County Leaders of the 20th Century for Agriculture representation.
Hodges says that during his career with Extension, there was never enough time to do what needed to be done. As for programs, he says, “Extension is an ever-changing process, evolving from the needs of the time. The great ones are yet to come.”
The biggest challenge facing Extension today is being noteworthy to the masses, he says. “Our funding model is the mirror of our worth to the client and local officials. Without local funds, Extension will fade from its grassroots base.”
During a long and storied career, Hodges counts the most significant scientific/technological advances as available electricity, indoor plumbing, computers and sending men to the moon.
During his retirement years, he has been active in Cullman Hospice, Cullman Housing Authority and the Cullman First Baptist Church. He has three children and eight grandchildren and enjoys working on his home grounds, football, exercise, yoga and drinking coffee.