Tal DuVall and Gene Ragan, two pioneers in Georgia agriculture, were inducted into the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Athens, Ga., Sept. 17. The hall of fame is a program of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
DuVall grew up on a dairy farm in Greene County, Ga. He attended UGA on a scholarship and earned a bachelor’s degree in dairy science, a master’s degree in Extension education and a doctorate in public administration.
After serving in the U.S. Army in Panama in 1956, DuVall became an assistant county Extension agent in Carroll County. Over the years, he was promoted to county agent, district agent, assistant director and, finally, as director of the Georgia Extension Service (now known as UGA Cooperative Extension), a position he held until retirement in 1988. Duvall used this position to support Georgia agriculture and Georgia 4-H across the state. He led efforts to establish the Jekyll Island 4-H Center and paved the way for the renovation of the Rock Eagle 4-H Center in the 1980s.
Duvall felt county agents should be storehouses of vital information on the counties they served. This belief prompted him to pull together the resources needed to publish the annual Georgia County Guide, a reference tool still widely used by agents, farmers, agriculture educators, bankers and researchers.
Under his leadership, the Integrated Pest Management Program at UGA and the supporting County Pest Management Associations became the national model for reducing agricultural pesticide costs and providing a database resource for agricultural research.
His honors include being named as a member of the U.S. Agricultural Education Delegation to China (1980), Georgia Adult Educator of the Year (1980), Epsilon Sigma Phi Distinguished Service Award (1982), National Distinguished Service Ruby Award (1984), National Association of Extension 4-H Agents’ Distinguished Service Award (1987), Progressive Farm Magazine Man of the Year in Georgia Agriculture (1988) and the Athens Regional Medical Center J.W. Fanning Humanitarian Award.
Outside UGA, Duvall served as an Athens-Clark County commissioner, member of the Athens-Clarke County Economic Development Authority, Athens-Clarke County Planning Commission, and Athens Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
First as a county Extension agent and then as a farm broadcaster, Ragan devoted his life to informing others about agriculture and helping Southern farmers.
As a young man in Early County, Ga., Ragan exhibited champion cattle and earned Master 4-H Club status after becoming the Georgia 4-H Meat Animal Champion.
After two years of college at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, he transferred to UGA, where he served as president of the Collegiate 4-H Club, vice-president of the Intercollegiate 4-H Club and was inducted into the Alpha Zeta Agricultural Fraternity.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1945, Ragan worked for the UGA Extension Service in Grady, Stewart and Seminole counties. With Extension, Ragan excelled in preparing and presenting radio shows and recognized the potential of radio and television for delivering critical information to farmers.
In 1953, he garnered sponsors and created two radio programs: “The Ragan Report” and “The Gene Ragan Farm Show.” Five years later, he transitioned to television with “The Noon Farm Report,” which ran on WTVY in Dothan, Ala. “The Noon Farm Report” is believed to be the longest running TV farm program on a single station in the U.S. The broadcast reached farmers in south Alabama, south Georgia and north Florida. He broadcasted an estimated 30,000 shows before retiring in 1998.
Ragan’s print media work includes writing the Dothan Eagle’s farm page and being the first advertising manager of the Southeastern Peanut Farmer. In 1999, Ragan produced a 115-page Farm Income, Trends and Prospects Survey for the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce for the tri-states region.
In 1975, he became a farm consultant for South Trust Bank of Dothan. He aided in the coordination of the Tri-States Panel for Agriculture and Agribusiness, which met to discuss issues with agricultural policymakers such as the Georgia Congressional Committee and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
In 1996, he initiated the University Conference on Agriculture, which brought together agricultural deans and administrators from UGA, Auburn University and University of Florida.
Staying true to his 4-H roots, Ragan has presented the Reserve Champion trophy at the Tri-States Beef Cattle Show and Sale since 1962.
In 2006, Ragan was inducted into the National Association of Farm Broadcasters Hall of Fame. His additional honors include receiving a Congressional tribute as Man of the Year in Alabama Agriculture (1997), the Man of the Year in Alabama Agriculture (1997) by Progressive Farmer magazine, ABAC’s Distinguished Alumnus (2008) and the Advertising Pioneer Award by the American Advertising Federation Dothan (2010).
(Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
Tal DuVal (left) and Gene Ragan are the newest members of the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame.Download Image