Family and farming have a special connection for Mississippi County agent
By Abbi Ross
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Aug. 23, 2019
- Ray Benson met his wife while working for the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service
- Benson’s son Neal is following his father’s footsteps, pursuing a career in agriculture
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Ray Benson has watched his family come full circle in agriculture.
Benson, Mississippi County Cooperative Extension staff chair since 2011, started his journey with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture in the summer of 1987. It was then, when he started working as a cotton scout for an extension integrated pest management project, that he began the journey that would shape the rest of his life.
One of the goals of the project was to help farmers learn how to better scout their crops and treat for pests only when necessary through integrated pest management. Integrated pest management is a specialized form of pest management that combines several strategies with the aim of reducing economic loss for farmers and reducing chemical use, instead of eradicating the issue.
Benson, a native of Manila, Arkansas, where he grew up on his family's farm, began his career with Wildy Family Farms as a scout, and then a scout supervisor. As a scout supervisor Benson was responsible for working with multiple farms’ scouts, including Wildy’s.
Benson also returned to Wildy Farms to do research while working on his master’s degree. He worked on validation and training of the COTMAN program, a cotton management program developed by the Division of Agriculture, as a part of his master’s thesis, Benson said.
“I started as a scout and moved up to scout supervisor and I met my wife that way,” Ray Benson said. “She was a cotton scout in the county.”
Benson and his wife, Jennifer, have been married for 26 years and have two children, Neal and Jenna. Neal is carrying on the family tradition at the University of Arkansas, where he will soon be starting his second year as a crop science major at the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences.
Neal also has ties to Wildy Family Farms, where he recently spent some time helping his father install moisture sensors.
“I’ve been around the Wildys since I was a kid,” Neal Benson said. “They're like family,”
It was not until the elder Benson took a picture of Neal helping him with the sensors that he realized how the long arc of history had brought a new generation around to an old beginning.
“It clicked, that a lot of who I am today is related to this farm,” Ray Benson said. “I started on Wildy's farm, I met my wife there, my thesis research was there and now my son is out there doing sustainability type work. It was a proud moment for me.”
To learn about more about programs offered by the Cooperative Extension Service in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service