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Derdzinski will miss variety of opportunities to teach

By By Jean Caspers-Simmet
simmet@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 07/08/2010 1:52 PM

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ALLISON, Iowa —Butler County Extension director Pat Derdzinski loves to teach.

"I love to help people find that 'aha' moment where that light bulb turns on," said Derdzinski, Butler County Extension Director. "Nothing is more enjoyable than seeing people understand something new."

On a recent day he had questions about mulching trees and how to get rid of an old alfalfa stand. Someone had problems with variegated cutworm in potatoes and another client wanted to know why the bark was splitting on a young tree.

"You learn on the job because a variety of people come to you for help," Derdzkinski said. "Some answers are straightforward and simple. Others, like providing help as one generation transitions the farm to the next, are more complex."

He'll miss that variety when he leaves his current position July 5 to become a county officer in training for the Farm Service Agency. Much of the training will take place at the Butler County office. Once the training is complete, he'll take a test and apply for county executive director openings.

Derdzinski, 54, brings experience in many different areas of agriculture. He said he'll enjoy focusing on fewer areas more in-depth.

Butler grew up in Greendale, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee. When he was young, he worked on a truck farm, a sod farm, a hog farm and also milked cows.

"I was an urban kid who enjoyed agriculture," Derdzinski said. "I majored in a agronomy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison."

After college, he worked as a research assistant for a university soybean and pea breeder and then did a 3 1/2 year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador where he worked with vegetable crop research and extension.

He attended graduate school for a short time, worked for the Soil Conservation Service and as an Extension horticulturist. He came to Iowa to work as an environmental specialist with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship in Floyd County. His focus was ground water protection and closing ag drainage wells.

In 1992, he became Butler County Extension education director.

Derdzinksi said it's been a wonderful career.

"How can you find a job where you educate people and you learn as much if not more than you're teaching," he said.

The hours are long, but it's an enjoyable profession.

"That's why I've stayed with this job so long," he said.