Praises came from all across the state May 4 during a retirement ceremony for Wythe Morris.
Morris, who has served as the Commercial Horticulture Extension Agent for Carroll, Smyth, Grayson and Wythe counties for the past nine years, will certainly be missed judging from the glowing remarks he received at the ceremony, held at the Carroll County Extension Office.
Danny Peek, District Director for the Southwest District of Virginia Cooperative Extension, spoke truthfully, saying he felt inadequate to talk about Morris. In speaking to county agents, he said they all had a hard time saying enough good things about Morris.
“They would say things like, ‘His shoes are going to be so big, they’re almost impossible to fill.’ And some of it is because having somebody like that who has a passion for what he is doing, and has the knowledge to do it, and has the communication skills to communicate it to the growers. That is kind of a rare find,” Peek said. “And his background as far as an educator, I’ve always heard people say if you want to teach somebody how to do things you have to have done them yourself. And I think that is important for Wythe because he has done it himself.”
Peek said agents also told him Morris has always been a team player, always willing to work with people and go the extra mile. Perhaps some of the things you never hear Morris say speaks the most about his character.
“That is not my job. That is not my role. Somebody else can do that. You wouldn’t hear him say that,” Peek said. “He would say, ‘Okay, I am willing to help.’ And I think that kind of makes Wythe who he is.”
Dr. Ed Jones, State Director of the Virginia Department of Extension, said he heard many things about Morris before he moved from North Carolina to Virginia from his colleagues.
“The picture they kept painting, I was expecting this guy to be about 10 feet tall because of how good he was, how helpful and always accommodating he was. Wythe, you are not 10 feet tall in stature, but you certainly are in reputation, and you have done a great job for us,” Jones said. “I just want to say thank you for what you’ve done. You’ve gone above and beyond what is expected. You’ve helped develop a statewide presence.”
Locally, Southwest Virginia Farmers’ Market Manager Kevin Semones said Morris has been invaluable with helping area farmers meet food safety requirements. While Morris has meant a lot in the local arena of agriculture, Semones said Morris has helped Carroll County go from being known for more than just cabbage and apples.
“I don’t know how we would be where we are today without him. If you are talking about greens, for example, that is probably close to a million dollar crop in the county. And it wasn’t nothing five years ago,” Semones said. “Without those growers being GAP certified, Wythe helped every one of them get to that point. Somebody said we are at about a 100 percent rating of everybody we worked with passing. That is great. I don’t know how else to say it but thank you sir.”
Without Gap certification, Semones said local farmers wouldn’t be getting their product into chains such as Food City, Kroger and Wal-Mart as they are currently doing.
“We really appreciate what you have done,” Semones said. “We wouldn’t be GAP certified without you. Thank you.”
Christiansburg farmer Dan Brann said Morris helped him become GAP certified. Things have improved dramatically become of him, Brann said, noting Morris helped make what seemed like the impossible task of becoming GAP certified an easy one.
“When I first came to the meetings and started with all this stuff, I thought it was going to be a mountain, but with Wythe’s help it became a molehill. Not a molehill that wasn’t important, but it was something accomplishable,” Brann said. “We do appreciate very much what Wythe has done, and not only what he’s done, but how he’s done it. There was never, ‘I don’t want to do this today, I can’t come today, I will be there next week sometime.’ There was never that feeling at all. It was, ‘We’ve got a job to do and we will work with you to get it done’. So thanks very much for all you’ve done for us.”
Morris then thanked everyone at the reception for all they’ve done over the years. He said his blessing from the job came from being able to be in the trenches with farmers and helping them solve problems together.
“A person said a long time ago, and I will always remember this, the only way you can be successful is to help other people be successful. So hopefully I have helped some of you all, and I know for me it has made me feel very, very successful,” Morris said. “And I just thank you from the very bottom of my heart for everything and for the relationships we’ve had. Hopefully that won’t end.”