Spring 2017 Logan County
Farm Outlook Magazine

John Fulton retires after a productive career helping others
By Angela Reiners

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[March 31, 2017]  At the end of March, John Fulton will retire after working in Logan County for over 30 years, serving the county since 1983. Fulton's extension career started in 1980 in Sangamon County, and even as a young teen, Fulton was doing work at an extension office.

For those of you who are wondering this or that, here are some questions and answers about Fulton's long and illustrious career and his plans for the future.

Was Ag Advisor/Extension Advisor your first career?

Fulton: Extension was my first “career.” I was Extension Advisor, Agriculture with rank of Assistant and did livestock work for adults and youth work for agriculture and other areas. I did have a period between hiring and starting work where I did some crop adjusting for an insurance company (continuing summer college employment) and was a herdsman for a farm in Iowa for about six months in the interim.

There were some fiscal constraints even in the early 80’s! My first “Extension job” was mowing the lawn and doing janitor work at the home county extension office when I was in junior high, and I often joke, in some regards things haven’t changed much through the years.

Does your wife still work with the Extension?

Fulton: My wife, Sherry, is retiring from Extension at the same time. She began in 1982 in Greene County, and has been in DeWitt County for most of her career, while also covering Piatt County since the last reorganization.

What are your children doing now? Did they follow you into agricultural careers?

Fulton: Our oldest son Andrew lives in Carterville, IL with his wife Corie, and he is an ag engineer for NRCS in Marion and covers the Southern Illinois district. David is engaged, and is the assistant Farm Bureau manager in Champaign County. Daniel is an operator for Beck’s Seed at their Practical Farm Research site at Downs, IL. All are in ag related careers!

There is often talk about how technology has changed farming, so how has it changed your job?

Fulton: There weren’t any cell phones or computers when I started, so lots of paper and note cards in the pocket. The first office computer was in 1984 in Logan County. We actually had a two-way radio system for my vehicle back to the office, and when on farm visits for black cutworm damage, they could radio other locations in the same area to reduce travel.

The websites have been big changes, allowing staff to reach much wider audiences in an almost instantaneous timeframe. Since I started two blogs a while back, I have over 250,000 blog hits. The unit website had over 1.3 million hits last year. The method of getting information to clientele has shifted for many to web-based, but we have offered in-person and walk-in as well, for those who prefer those methods.

What are some of the other big changes you have seen during your career?

Fulton: Specialization has been a large change. When I started, staff were generalists who also might specialize in a broad area such as crops. Entry positions required bachelor degrees, and you could work on advanced degrees. Now, all professional positions require masters degrees.

This has also led to many forms of multi-county programming from the education center concept to the current multi-county unit concept. Pure information exchange has probably improved, but it is harder to make relationships in communities while covering larger geographic areas.

Homeowners and producers have also become more specialized. Many homeowners are true experts on certain flowers, shrubs, and trees.

Ag producers are much more knowledgeable in production and marketing, and many are even certified crop advisors. The level of knowledge attained by clientele is a great thing!

How have the fair and 4-H evolved over your years at the extension office?

Fulton: The fair is an opportunity to showcase project work, and the knowledge gained about projects. That part hasn’t changed.

What has changed is the breadth of the projects, and the types of clubs youth members belong to. We now have Special Project Interest Clubs (SPIN) which focus on robotics, cheerleading, self-defense, shooting sports, and many others. This is really “everything old is new again,” since 4-H originally started in this format with Corn Clubs, Pig Clubs, and Sewing Clubs, but the topics are much broader and extend outside of the agriculture and home economics areas.

What is one of the most interesting or memorable events that happened during your career?

Fulton: There are several ranging from important things such as confirming soybean cyst nematode in Logan County and the ensuing testing and education programs, co-authoring the 4-H Crops project manuals, starting the Master Gardener Program in Logan County, and conducting the Focus on the Future activities for Logan County with the Community Resource and Development Council to the things like coordinating State Fair Swine exhibitors to meet with President Reagan and working through all the Secret Service screenings involved. The formation of support groups such as the Logan County 4-H Foundation and the Logan County Extension Educational Building Association are also at the top of the list. An appendectomy right after finishing the fall European corn borer survey in 2004 was very memorable!

Is there something interesting that happened at the fair that you could share?

Fulton: Horrible storms one year on the first day of the livestock show were memorable, as I was running back from the main office at the fairgrounds to the livestock show arena after checking with Emergency Services and the National Weather Service. Running through about three inches of water and extremely windy conditions wasn’t any fun. My hat blew off and was never seen again, and my glasses literally blew off. I had to find them in the water before getting everyone to the more secure corner of the show arena. That’s one reason the new bath house was built on the livestock end of the fairgrounds, as it is also a storm shelter!

Could you tell about your major accomplishments or something you did in your career that you are proud of?

Fulton: There are many things, and some are in the memorable events section. However, the single item I’m most proud of is the small part I may have played in the lives of youth which may have contributed to their success and their leadership roles in the communities they now live in. The Extension mottos from “Helping You Help Yourself,” “Investing in You,” to “Extending Knowledge – Changing Lives” have been good summaries of the work. Extension has been a truly rewarding career for me, where it has been almost impossible to differentiate between work and personal interest.

Fulton's coworkers have enjoyed working with him

Patty Huffer, Extension Program Coordinator of 4-H Youth Development says, "John has always been a great Extension Director to work with. He is supportive of his staff members, a good fiscal manager, and encourages teamwork. He’s always had an easy going nature and been level headed regardless of any sort of stressful situation that has come to pass throughout the years."

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Fulton pictured in his office around 1999 when the Extension was still located at the Logan County Farm Bureau Building.

The ribbon cutting of the brand new office located on the Logan County Fairgrounds, summer 2000.

Fulton about 20 years back, announcing information ahead of the 4-H Auction during Logan County Fair Week. 

Huffer: Best memories would include all the years of working during Logan County Fair Week and the 4-H Shows that take place during that week. 4-H Nights at the Fair are especially fun evenings and John has led those evenings which allow us to ‘showcase 4-H’ and exhibit our pride in the Logan County 4-H program.

Others also shared some of the best memories of Fulton from over the years.

Another co-worker said, “When I think of John and being funny or silly would be when sometimes we’d hit a slow point or need a brain break, we’d play the “letter game” in the front office. The game consists of picking a letter and saying random words that begin with that letter until you can’t think of anymore. John would oftentimes somehow end up a part of the game and try to stump us. More often than not, the next day he would randomly walk in and say a word that began with whatever the last letter was.”

Fulton's coworkers were also asked what were his most significant contributions to the work at the extension office.

Huffer: One of [his] most significant contributions was collaborating with the Lincoln Community High School Building Trades program to have the Logan County Extension Office built on the northwest corner of the Logan County Fairgrounds Fall 1999/Spring 2000. It was a big move for us to come to a brand new building situated in an ideal location on the fairgrounds.

John has many strong connections throughout the counties he has worked in, from Fair Boards, to County Boards, to Ag Committees, John has been influential in supporting and contributing to all of these.

Huffer: He has also received numerous National and State awards such as multiple recognitions for Outstanding Programs, Personal Column, Newsletter, Website, and Distinguished Service Award.

Huffer describes Fulton as someone who has "a keen understanding of University of Illinois Extension, is an esteemed leader, active team member and a respected supervisor."

Fulton has made a deep impact on Logan County to be felt for years to come. He will undoubtedly be missed at the extension office.

Photos taken at March 27th Retirement Reception


Read all the articles in our new
Spring 2017 Logan County
Farm Outlook Magazine

2016 featured record soybean yields and decreasing incomes 4
The conundrum of corn 7
The prospect of higher ag prices 11
Price increase for US feed forecast 14
A suspicious character in town:  Bacterial Leaf Streak 17
Why some central Illinois farmers are giving cover crops a try 20
John Fulton to retire after a productive career helping others 24
Weather...and panning for gold in the 2017 growing season 33
2016 County Crop Yields Released 40

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