Remembering James Hill
GRIFFIN, Georgia -- If one measures life by the number of friends, then it can easily be said that James Hill lived and lived well.
As James walked the road of sustainable agriculture through the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program, there was no shortage of warm greetings….a kind smile….a firm handshake. The lives he touched ever-growing; the knowledge he imparted immense.
Originally from South Carolina, James worked at South Carolina State University as an agriculture marketing specialist, an agriculture program coordinator and a water quality program manager before coming to SARE in 2004.
As the program’s limited-resource and minority outreach specialist based at Fort Valley State University, James was the link between SARE and 1890 Land Grant efforts. His presence at conferences, workshops, programs and other events was a welcome sight. His outreach and education efforts were well received. Requests for his presentations were unending.
To the small farmer, he was a mentor, tirelessly guiding those hungry for sustainable agriculture.
“James was the first one to get me involved closely with Tuskegee University Extension programs and we built a solid relationship for helping small producers, which benefited all institutions and a wide range of farms,” said Ayanava Majumdar, an IPM Extension specialist at Auburn University.
Niki Whitley, an animal science Extension specialist at Fort Valley State University, remembers James as a kind and caring person whose warm greetings and positivity always made her feel appreciated. “He really supported small farmers and sustainable agriculture,” she said.
“His contributions were many and the lessons he taught were invaluable,” said Dawn Mellion Patin, an ag specialist at Southern University. “He served as a member of the advisory team of the Southern University Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute, and through his efforts, farmers in 18 states were helped.”
To ag professionals, he was a teacher, delivering the best of the SARE program across the Southern region.
“James was a professional who helped make things happen. It was much easier for him to say, ‘Let’s see how we can make it happen’ than for him to say, ‘No, we can’t do it’,” said Franklin Jackson, associate dean at Virginia State University. “He was helpful, humble and was passionate not only about his work, but perhaps more importantly about helping us in his uniquely calm manner.”
Put simply, James was “SARE” to the 1890 institutions, said Lawrence Carter, associate dean of Extension and outreach at Florida A&M University.
“He was truly an inspiration to all and raised the bar for 1890 SARE programs,” said Marion Simon, state specialist for small farms at Kentucky State University.
Lorenzo Lyons, executive administrator of the Association of Extension Administrators, recalled James’ commitment to helping the 1890s acquire additional resources for their sustainable agriculture programs.
“He helped the clients of the 1890s get access to resources through the SARE program that would enhance their success as limited resource farmers,” said Lyons.
To colleagues, he was a leader, whose hard work, leadership and dedication lifted him on a pedestal of respect.
“I have always had the deepest respect for James. He was just a wonderful human being, besides being a great professional,” said Micki Swisher, associate professor of sustainable ag at University of Florida.
Jean Mills, Southern SAWG conference coordinator, loved James’ loyalty and commitment to underserved farmers.
“His influence in the South’s agricultural community is deep, though many farmers are likely unaware that James was their behind-the-scenes advocate, helping make resources and opportunities available to them for years,” said Mills. “James was good to work with, both because I had such respect for him, but also because he was just fun! He will be missed, but his legacy and our fond memories will remain with us.”
Loyal, devoted, helpful, gracious, pleasant, supportive, inspirational and amiable are just some of ways Cassel Gardner, a SARE state coordinator at Florida A&M University, describes James as a person.
“I saw James as a colleague and a friend. He was a great advocate of sustainable agriculture and consistently encouraged participation of minority farmers and students in SARE programs,” he said.
Much of SARE’s presence across the Southern region was due to James’ hard work and dedication to helping small farmers.
“Last summer we were honored to accept, on behalf of Southern SARE, the 1890 Universities Champions Award for our work with limited resource and minority farmers, as well as the 1890s themselves,” said SSARE director Jeff Jordan. “Fittingly, James was able to be at the program in Washington D.C. It was through his dedication and hard work that the Southern SARE program was given this recognition.”
To the SARE family, James was simply a friend.
“James was more than just a colleague, he was truly a friend,” said Jordan. “Know that the SARE program is a bit worse off because he is gone.”
To James – a mentor, a teacher, a leader…. our friend – you will be greatly missed.
Published by the Southern Region of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Southern SARE operates under cooperative agreements with the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University, and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture to offer competitive grants to advance sustainable agriculture in America's Southern region.