An active advocate for agriculture, Rick Parsons of Vance, Miss., died unexpectedly at his home Feb. 16. He was 56.

Parsons was considered by many of his Mississippi farming peers as “the ultimate farm manager,” and his death will leave a hole in the many state and national agricultural organizations he actively served.

Calling Parsons' death an “unfortunate tragedy,” Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., says, “This is a great loss for the state. President George W. Bush appointed Rick to the State Farm Services Agency Committee three years ago, and he served very ably on that committee.

“He served with distinction, and he was a farm leader who was well-respected by everyone who knew him,” says Cochran.

Chip Morgan, executive vice president of the Stoneville, Miss.-based Delta Council, adds, “Rick was a progressive thinker when it came to farm policy, and was always a team player.”

Last year, Parsons was named the 2003 Lancaster/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year for Mississippi, and was presented with the North Area Cropland Conservationist Award by the Mississippi Association of Conservation Districts.

In addition, Parsons served on the board of directors for Delta Council, the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corp., Delta Wildlife, the Tallahatchie County Farm Bureau, and the Tutwiler Ginning Company. He was also an elder and Sunday school teacher at Sumner Presbyterian Church, a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, a member of the Sumner Rotary Club, and president of the Tutwiler Ginning Company.

He was a member of one of the first Cotton Leadership Program classes and was a past Cotton Achievement Award winner.

Parsons began managing the soybean operation for S.M. Fewell & Company, Inc., in 1972. Under his leadership the Fewell Planting Company has grown to more than 9,000 acres of corn, cotton, wheat, soybeans and rice.

In a 2003 Delta Farm Press article, Parsons recalled his introduction to farming at the tender age of 11. “My grandfather introduced me to farming back in 1957. I chopped cotton. And if you've ever chopped cotton, you know what a tough job that is. 1957 was a very wet year in the Mississippi Delta,” he recalls. “I've never done anything that I hated so badly. I used to say that if I ever had a son, the first job he would learn on the farm is to chop cotton…and when it's wet.”

Parsons leaves behind his wife, Carlisle, and one son, R. Scott Parsons of Arlington, Va. Survivors include his mother, Kathryn B. Parson of Oxford; one sister, Laura P. Walker of Brentwood, Tenn.; two brothers, John R. Parsons of Memphis and J. Robert Parsons of Water Valley, Miss.; and one grandchild, Rae Elizabeth Parsons of Arlington, Va.

A memorial service was held Thursday, Feb. 19, at 2 p.m. at Sumner Presbyterian Church in Sumner, Miss. The family requests that memorials be made to the Sumner Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 504, Sumner, Miss., 38957.