Arthur Green gestures to the produce on display underneath a wooden canopy that sits by the roadside just outside of Elkton, the city where earlier this year he began a term as mayor. Ripe red tomatoes are crowded into boxes beneath the canopy, ears of corn are arranged nearby atop a rustic wagon.
"This is why ag education is important, to do things like this to get students to move to the future," observed Green, who spent 33 years teaching agriculture before retiring in 2006.
Among Green's students during his years at Todd County Central High School was Jerry Wayne Simons, a Todd County farmer whose daughter Eliza Simons works on the family farm and operates her own produce stand, the thusly-named Eliza Simons' Produce Stand.
Eliza also drives a combine and runs a crew of 27 men on the farm, and she is a part of that legacy of family farms being passed from one generation to the next, according to Green.
She's not just talking about farming, he said. She's out there growing and selling.
The retired ag teacher, who's known the Simons family for probably 40 years, was recognized last month for his support of agriculture and the Future Farmers of America organization.
Green received the Kentucky FFA Association's Distinguished Service Award, the highest recognition given by the association, during its 90th state convention in Lexington.
"I laughingly say it's for being old and standing around a long time," noted Green, who grew up in Lyon County but moved to Todd County in 1973 after finishing his degree at Murray State.
Green initially received his Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture with a teaching certification and in 1975 completed a master's degree in agriculture. He later received his Rank 1, a program option and as Green described it, the next level for educators, also from MSU.
He began his career at Todd Central as an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor and has taught numerous students through the years; just exactly how many, he found it difficult to say.
Green noted that "a lot of the young folks that are farming in Todd County and in ag business" were once in his classes, among them Bradley McKinney, who is now an ag teacher in Rowan County and was named the 2019 Kentucky Agriculture Teacher of the Year at the convention.
"I look at that and kind of see (that) the connection to ag education keeps going on," Green said.
He observed that he'll always believe in a future for farming and the agriculture industry, and Green predicted that there will be many opportunities available in farming in the future.
But he said people who are seeking out those opportunities will have to dig for them.
Ag Is Everywhere
"We live in a society that doesn't know a lot about agriculture although agriculture is around us everywhere," mused Green, who despite his retirement has remained active in agriculture and teaching and in FFA. "But what sustains this region and this whole country is agriculture.
"I think there's something special when you're connected to the earth and you watch plants and animals grow and develop," he added as he considered his own rural experiences. "You're out there in God's creation when you're on a farm. I don't know that there's anything better."
Green's mother Juanita Green still lives on the small family farm where her son got his start in farming. Arthur Green grew up on the farm in Lyon County and took vocational agriculture when he was in high school. His ag classes got him involved in FFA, and Green loved it all.
When he graduated from Lyon County High School, he wanted to be involved in agriculture.
"Farming didn't have a lot of opportunities for me," said Green, who, in addition to his recent election as mayor of Elkton, has also served a term as Todd County judge-executive.
"I guess my thought process was if I taught ag I could stay connected to it," he said.
Green noted that the biggest challenge facing agriculture today is having young men and women who will take over and produce the food. The cost of starting a farm operation is too great for young farmers, he explained, pointing to programs in place across the nation to pair farmers with existing land and operations with young farmers who will continue those farms.
Such programs provide mentors for young people and create a plan so they can farm, he said.
Of his own community, Green said Todd County has had some of the most advanced progressive farmers in the area and state and "sometimes, it's been all the way to the nation."
One can, Green noted, find bigger ag communities, but one won't find in Kentucky a county any more innovative and progressive than Todd County; folks now deceased have passed on that desire for its next generations to provide the best the industry can produce, he said.
Green said it's great to have industries like the aluminum rolling and recycling plant Novelis Inc., move into the county. But he said agriculture will be the community's primary industry for years to come.
He noted that Todd County will have to seek new, innovative technologies if agriculture is going to succeed in the community in the future, and he urged farmers to educate themselves.
"Anybody in agriculture today has to keep their eye on international trade (and) the markets because a lot of those decisions being made by others are having a positive or negative effect on what's happening right here," he said of the need to stay abreast of the total ag industry.
Green, who's been active with agriculture and ag education throughout his career, said he doesn't really see himself not being connected to ag education, agriculture and FFA.
Career in Education
When people ask the mayor of Elkton what he does, he points to those same disciplines.
Yes, Green said he explains, he has been a county judge and now the mayor of the county seat of Elkton, but his career is education, and it's one he has supported through all these years.
"When people call, I try to help out," he noted of his philosophy in the matter.
His recent award recognized, not only his 33 years in the ag classroom, but also his service on the Kentucky FFA Foundation Board and the Kentucky FFA Alumni and Supporters association.
Green is now in his third term as president of the state Alumni and Supporters group.
He served 14 years with the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System board, including two terms as chairman, was active with the Education Teachers' Professional Standards Board of Kentucky and has been a local president of the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association.
He is now serving a term as district president with the teachers association's 3rd District and has served on the state teachers association's legislative committee for eight years.
Green judges regional and state contests and drives a bus for trips to FFA events.
He noted of his recent award from the Kentucky FFA Association that "they generally identified my support of ag and education and my lifetime support of the FFA organization.
When he was teaching, Green noted that a part of that was to educate students on all aspects of agriculture, everything from crop production and animal science to running a greenhouse.
"A lot of it, especially in the latter years, were students who didn't farm but were interested in ag and FFA," the retired educator observed, explaining that "we always focused on leadership development and skills because those could be used in any career."
Green recalled those light bulb moments in his classroom, those moments, he said, when you were encouraging a student to take part in a speech or a contest or to try something new that they didn't think they could do.
But then you'd see that light bulb come on in their minds and that smile on their faces when they accomplished their task.
"Whether you're an ag educator or an educator period, that's really what all teachers want to see, students succeeding today and succeeding in the future," Green observed.
"I've lived here long enough to see former students succeeding in their careers, with their farms and their leadership positions," he continued. "At least you want to believe you had a little part in that."
Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or email@example.com.