This story is part of an on-going series recognizing the Springfield-Washington County Chamber of Commerce award winners.
Rick Greenwell may not originally be from Washington County, but to him, it is most certainly home.
Greenwell, an Oldham County native, first came to WC in March of 1970 to take over as an extension agent.
Nearly forty four years later, he still holds that same position today.
“There’s no place I’d rather be,” Greenwell said. “That decision that I made to apply for this spot so many years ago, it’s been a great decision.”
It was less than a year after graduating from Western Kentucky with a degree in agriculture that he moved to Springfield to take the spot.
And it didn’t take long for Greenwell to get settled into his new home.
“To come to a place and be nothing, know nobody, to bet your whole life at that moment to come to a place and be accepted, well, it’s been a great gift from the people in this community,” Greenwell said.
“My family, we were by ourselves, but the community picked us up, helped us out.”
The transition was also made easy because of the great “love and respect” that the people of Washington County had for agriculture.
Greenwell knew that he would have a life in the ag industry after growing up on a 900-acre diversified farm in Oldham County. In fact, he never even considered another option.
It’s where he got his first paycheck at the age of 12. He was an FFA member in high school. After school, on the weekend, Greenwell was sure to be doing something ag-related.
For him, ag was a relationship to the world.
“Agriculture is the connection to the Earth and to God,” Greenwell said. “It’s our connection to families and neighbors. Just knowing that we contribute to the world in a positive manner, that’s a great thing. We make a difference because we’re raising fiber and food. You don’t have to have a car, but you’ve gotta have food.”
If he only had an inkling about this theory growing up, he knows now that it’s the real deal. While many think that Greenwell’s job has to do with “acres and bushels and tons,” he believes the most important aspect is building a relationship with the people of Washington County.
He described himself as “the middle man” between the UK College of Agriculture and WC farm families.
With UK’s research finding new agricultural discoveries every day, Greenwell works as the mouthpiece to get this information to the Washington County public.
“There’s no point in having the research if it’s not delivered locally,” Greenwell said. “That’s what we do here at the extension office. We’re that connection. We’re all about helping people.”
And, according to Greenwell, working with the people of Washington County is a dream come true.
The first thing he noticed about Springfield when he moved there in 1970 was the importance of family.
With three children (Lee Carol Noonan, Richard Kendrick IV and Sara Prudence Kron) and a wife, Rita, that he has been married to for 45 years, Greenwell, too, knows the value of family.
“You could tell that there were so many families that stuck together, worked together,” Greenwell said. “Everybody just got along together so well. Living here is like the dream of Mayberry coming true.”
In working so closely with WC farmers, in particular, the one thing that has impressed him the most is the county’s youth movement in agriculture. He stated that the “average age of farmers in Washington County is considerably lower than it is across nation and the state.”
“Young farmers are so great to work with,” Greenwell said. “They bring a whole new energy to the industry, I think.
In recognition of all of his accomplishments and years invested in the county, Greenwell was recently presented with the “Ag Achievement Award” at the recent Chamber of Commerce banquet.
The award, voted on by the chamber members, meant a great deal to Greenwell, who called the experience “humbling.”
“There are a whole lot of people that deserve that reward,” Greenwell said. “It’s an award that means a lot to the agricultural industry in this county, and I was honored to receive it.”
Chamber President John Weis was one of the many that recognized Greenwell’s merit as this award’s recipient.
“He’s been here for a long time, and he’s passionate about farming. He goes out of his way to get people information that can help them on their farm operations, and he provides a service to the community from an ag standpoint all the way around.”
But, while the award was “just really a great honor,” the best reward for Greenwell is getting to work with the people of Washington County.
“It’s all about the people I work with,” Greenwell said. “It’s a great place to start a career and raise a family. This is home.”