AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—Rick Pate, the Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, is the recipient of the 2022 Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) Friend of Extension Award in recognition of his unwavering commitment to the programs delivered by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
The Friend of Extension Award is the highest award given to those outside of Extension by ESP– a professional organization of Cooperative Extension. The award is presented annually to a person, business or organization to recognize their outstanding support and personal involvement in Extension efforts.
Alabama Cooperative Extension System Director, Mike Phillips, said Pate is a partner, advocate and visionary leader who has a genuine concern for the future of agriculture and the people of Alabama.
“Rick seeks out opportunities to apply Extension resources to problems and believes in the power of education,” Phillips said. “As a business leader, farmer and elected official, he believes in building relationships in the community through both professional and civic organizations. He is known for his commitment to quality work and community improvement. We value his support and greatly appreciate his leadership.”
Pate Supports Extension Programming
A native of Lowndes County, Pate grew up on a cattle and poultry operation and later chose to study horticulture at Auburn University. He owned and operated Pate Landscape Company, served on the Lowndesboro town council and later was elected mayor. During his time in hometown politics he focused on building relationships in the communities he served.
This is something he has continued as Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries. Pate works closely with Alabama Extension and is a strong supporter of its educational mission, including pesticide education, veterans’ programs, commercial horticulture and a statewide educational campaign for sustainable agriculture, Down to Earth.
Pate recognized the value of Extension early on.
“The research and educational tools were valuable to me as a business owner,” Pate said. “Extension made a lasting impact on me, and I want to continue helping Alabama Extension meet the needs of Alabama’s citizens.”
Pate has frequently called on Alabama Extension professionals to serve people of Alabama in partnership with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI). Partnerships include:
- Hemp research and education projects
- Alabama Farmers Markets through Sweet Grown Alabama
- Disaster relief programs in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020
- H-2A Guest Worker Program for Specialty Crop Producers
- Operation Grow
Pate’s leadership has influenced many Extension programs, but his guidance has been invaluable in the development of Operation Grow—a project to support and train veterans in agriculture.
Operation Grow, a part of the Alabama Beginning Farmer program in partnership with the ADAI, provides special emphasis on the training needs of military veterans interested in specialty crop production.
Recognition for Strong Partnership
Alabama Extension Associate Director, Paul Brown, said Commissioner Pate stands-out among individuals who truly have been Friends of Extension.
“His outstanding efforts have been instrumental in supporting, resourcing and multiplying innovative Extension programs,” Brown said. “His advocacy for education and supportive partnerships are making a difference to advance Alabama agriculture and food systems.”
Learn more about Extension programming by visiting www.aces.edu.