Roger Eason, director of the Pine Tree Experiment Station, has retired, capping a 47-year career with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
Eason was honored with a retirement reception Jan. 26 at the C.A. Vines 4-H Center at Ferndale.
"I'm grateful to be associated with topnotch people," Eason said. "I've worked with and learned from scientists who are tops in their fields. That's been a real plus in this job."
Vice President for Agriculture Mark Cochran said, "Throughout his long career, Roger has exemplified the dedication, skill and talent that are hallmarks of our people in the Division of Agriculture. He's developed Pine Tree into a premier row crop and forestry research station."
"Roger is our most senior station director," said Rick Roeder, interim associate vice president of agriculture-research and director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. "You could call him the dean of research center directors. That kind of knowledge and experience will be very hard to replace."
Eason earned a bachelor's degree in animal husbandry at the University of Arkansas in 1965. That same year, he went to work as a county Extension agent in Crittenden County. He also served as an agricultural agent in Clay and St. Francis counties until 1974. Although his education was in livestock agriculture, Eason said his experience in the county offices was more diverse and he worked mostly in agronomy.
Eason worked in the private sector for a few years before joining the staff at the Pine Tree Station in 1978. He was appointed director in 1991.
Pine Tree Experiment Station is the largest of the division's research stations and centers with more than 12,000 acres of cropland and timberland. When Eason joined the staff there, it was primarily a livestock research station. He was instrumental in the conversion of the station's mission to row crop research in 1980.
"We converted about 3,500 acres of fescue and bermudagrass pasture to row crops," Eason said.
The change required acquisition of enough farm machinery to operate on that scale. "We also had to convert a bunch of cowboys to row crop farmers," Eason said of the station's staff. "It was a pretty dramatic change."
Today, Pine Tree Experiment Station provides research plots primarily for rice, soybeans and wheat. It also provides fields for the foundation seed program.
Improvements to the station under Eason's leadership have included expansion of irrigation systems to 1,700 acres, construction of a new administration building with offices and research space, and development of a harvest rotation and marketing schedule for the station's approximately 8,000 acres of timberland.
Located in bottomland around some important east Arkansas creeks, Pine Tree serves up some big environmental challenges. "There's a lot of regulation concerning wetlands and other water quality issues," Eason said.
"Roger's done an excellent job in balancing environmental considerations with the needs of agricultural production," Roeder said.
Eason said his immediate plans for retirement are to relax, go fishing and to travel with his wife, Sherry. They plan to continue living in their home in Forrest City.