County agent May passes away at 60Published 2:49pm Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Mitchell May, coordinator of the Decatur County office of the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension, died Tuesday morning at the age of 60, at his home in Quincy, Fla., according to friends of his family.
May had recently been battling cancer, although his passing came about unexpectedly, said Lindsey Bell Hayes, the county’s 4-H coordinator.
According to Hayes, May was an expert in pond and fisheries management and had focused on that area after being hired at the county extension office in 2000. Upon his promotion to extension office coordinator, May also began assisting farmers with row crops and livestock and was a local expert in beef cattle feed rations.
May received a bachelor’s degree in agronomy/plant sciences and a master’s degree in fisheries/aquatic science, both from the University of Florida. He also collaborated with UF to conduct wildlife educational programming.
He had conducted extensive research on aquatic weeds, such as hydrilla and water hyacinths, over the years. He conducted workshops and consulted with lake homeowner groups and plantations in regard to pond management issues.
Andy Bell, president of the Decatur County Farm Bureau, said May was a tremendous asset to local farmers.
“When Mitchell took a call, he never knew what was going to be on the other end of that call,” Bell said. “It could have been a farmer calling with a pest problem, or a home gardener wanting to know how to get rid of an armadillo. But Mitchell not only had a great amount of knowledge, he also had great people skills.
“The county agent in an agricultural county is obviously a very important person, and he’ll be missed by our farmers and our citizens.”
County Administrator Gary Breedlove said that May was “well respected by the agricultural community.”
“He was a phenomenally effective county extension agent,” he said. “He will be sorely missed. I was talking to a citizen earlier this morning, and he said that Mitchell was probably the best extension agent that we’ve had since Tommy Wheeler. That’s very high praise.”
Ken Lewis, a regional official with the UGA Cooperative Extension, said May had routinely received calls from throughout southwest Georgia pertaining to fish population management, weed control, disease treatment and water quality management.
He maintained an ongoing research program addressing local needs of Decatur County farmers, in partnership with UGA faculty members, in cotton, corn, sweet corn, peanuts and clover/pastures.
May was a member of a team of county agents and extension specialists that conducted multiple years of cutting edge research on sweet corn water use, irrigation rates to maximize efficiency, yield and quality at the CM Stripling Irrigation Research Park, in Camilla, Ga.
For several years, May wrote a column for The Post-Searchlight, on agriculture-related topics.
He was one of the founding coaches of the Decatur County 4-H shotgun team and was an active supporter of 4-H activities. He was a member of the Chamber of Commerce’s Agriculture Committee and was on the organizing committee for the chamber’s annual fall fair.
May was a recipient of the prestigious Distinguished Service Award, presented by the Georgia Association of Agricultural Agents and the National Association of Agricultural Agents.
Billy Mills, superintendent of UGA’s Attapulgus Research Farm, said he had collaborated with May over the years.
“Not only was he a dear friend, but this region is losing a valuable asset [in May],” Mills said. “When you need to know some information, he was always there when you called upon him.”
“Mitchell’s true passion for agriculture was clearly evident in his work with the farmers in our community,” Hayes said. “Mitchell dedicated many hours and efforts in providing guidance to the youth of our 4-H program whether by attending camp, being a field day instructor, or a shotgun coach.
“He was always willing to give his time and expertise to our students and community members. He was an integral part of Decatur County Extension and he will be greatly missed.”
May is survived by his wife, Barbara, and a stepson, Stephen Fruzan, who serves in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Charles McClellan Funeral Home in Quincy, Fla., is in charge of funeral arrangements, which were still pending at press time.
Managing Editor Justin Schuver contributed to this story.