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Troy Buck: Arkansas Ag Ed Legacy

In honor and memory of Mr. Troy Buck, enjoy the following story from the summer 2016 issue of Farming with Family & Friends magazine (now The Rural Scene) highlighting his 55-year career in agriculture education.

Biostar

Farm Credit of Western Arkansas

Marketing & Communications Team

The following story was first published in the 2016 Summer Issue of Farming with Family & Friends magazine (now The Rural Scene).

You’d be hard pressed to find anybody associated with Arkansas agriculture who doesn’t know the man in blue jeans, a white pearl snap shirt, and a blue FFA vest.

Troy Buck, an agriculture teacher at Centerpoint High School, is well-known for his recognizable outfit, but more importantly, he’s known for his passion for teaching agriculture and molding young people’s lives. His blue vest is the armor of a humble man who lives his strong faith and FFA values daily.

Mr. Buck was recently named a national Farm Credit Fresh Perspectives honoree for agricultural education and community impact, an honor that only 10 people in the United States received. However, this award only scrapes the surface of Mr. Buck’s accomplishments. He serves on the board of directors for both Farm Credit of Western Arkansas and Arkansas Farm Bureau, has been inducted into the Arkansas Hall of Fame, was honored three times as the state Agriculture Teacher of the Year and helped Amity FFA win the national Building our American Communities award for restoring the old school building and turning it into the Alpine Community Center. Yet with all of his accomplishments, Mr. Buck remains extremely humble.

“I’m honored by the Farm Credit award, but this thing bothers me,” he said. “I don’t do this for me.”

Troy Buck was named a Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives Honoree in 2016. He received this award for pioneering ag education programs in Arkansas and shaping the future of agriculture and rural communities.

When Mr. Buck started teaching, he was the youngest agriculture teacher in the state. Today, he’s taught longer than any current agricultural educator in Arkansas. He completes his 55th year of teaching in May and has announced his retirement.

Mr. Buck becomes emotional when asked what he will miss most about teaching.

“The kids,” he said. “Seeing a kid learn to do something and the lights come on, it’s what I live for.”

Mr. Buck’s dedication to his students is evident. Current senior, Dustin Spears, is a perfect example. Dustin announced he was dropping out of high school last year, but Mr. Buck saw potential in Dustin, and at the same time, his adherent need for motivation.

Mr. Buck simply told Dustin he would not be dropping out. In fact, he said he would pick him up for school every morning if he had to. Dustin stayed in school with Mr. Buck’s encouragement and graduates this year. He’ll be the second person in his family to do so.

“I’m a big ol’ tough rascal,” Mr. Buck said. “But when Dustin goes across that stage, I’ll probably cry like a baby.”

Mr. Buck’s impact and relationship with his students doesn’t end after graduation. On any given week, as many as three or four former students stop by the school to see him and catch up.

Despite his success as a teacher and mentor, Mr. Buck said he never wanted to teach.

“I graduated high school at Amity and when I walked out of that auditorium, I said I would never step foot in a schoolhouse again as long as I live. And since then, I’ve been in school every time the bell rings,” he said as he laughed.

Upon graduation, he told his dad he wanted to farm instead of going to college. Delighted, his dad bought 160 acres of sweetgum-infested pasture and two chopping axes. Mr. Buck began helping his father clear the pasture.

“About two weeks later, with my hands bleeding, I took a drink of water out of a fruit jar and said, ‘Dad, I’ve been thinking about going to college.’ He said ‘Good. Where are you going?’ And I thought about Henderson and Ouachita which were right down the road where I could be home every weekend. Then I looked at him and said, ‘Fayetteville.’”

“Less than a week after I left for college, he bought a chainsaw!” he said laughing.

55 years later, Mr. Buck is part of one of the most recognized vocational agriculture programs in the state. One of Centerpoint FFA’s crowning achievements is their meat-processing lab, a program Mr. Buck developed and the only one of its kind in the state.

The meat-processing lab gives students a hands-on opportunity to process deer, hogs, and cattle from start to finish. Mr. Buck stresses that students learn as many parts of the process as possible. Some of his students have used these valuable skills to pursue related careers.

Mr. Buck said the meat processing lab generates about $30,000 for the Centerpoint FFA program annually. While there are suggested processing fees, the lab operates entirely on donations. He smiles as he remembers the generous donations of many customers over the years.

He tells one story of a customer returning the following day with cookies for the students. When he questioned her, she said she’d been so impressed with how customer-service oriented the students were that she wanted to bake them cookies in appreciation.

“Students today aren’t always learning how to answer the phone, address customers, take an order, or problem solve,” he continued. “Our goal here is to prepare students to be able to have and keep a job one day. To be productive, contributing citizens.”

 “If we’ve done that, then we’ve done our job,” he concluded.  

The Centerpoint FFA program is well-supported by the community. A nod to Mr. Buck’s strong leadership. Thanks to financial support, the program is able to supply FFA jackets for every student who wants one and underwrites trips to leadership camps, FFA conventions and more.

“This community supports us like you wouldn’t believe,” Mr. Buck said. “We have a pie auction every year and take in $12,000 to $15,000 in an hour and a half. The story is, that some fried apple pies, two or three times, brought in $100 apiece. They’re good pies,” he said chuckling.

The money raised by the pie auction is testament to more than how well the Centerpoint FFA Chapter can bake. It represents the faith the community has in the program. A faith that has been developed by Mr. Buck and his agricultural peers at Centerpoint High School.

Jerry Fendley has been teaching agriculture with Mr. Buck for the last eight years and says that Mr. Buck is one of the most well-known and respected men in the community.

“Everyone grows up knowing who he is, so that expectation is built-in when students enter his classroom,” he said. “The respect level is through the roof. Most of the students don’t want him to be disappointed, so even when he’s gone two or three days, when he comes back, it looks like he hasn’t been gone.”

Although he’s leaving the classroom, Mr. Buck has created a legacy through not just the unique meat-processing lab, but, more importantly, through the values, principles, and morals he’s quietly and humbly instilled in his students.

Mr. Buck is more than just a recognizable ag advocate in blue jeans, a white pearl snap shirt and blue FFA vest. Mr. Buck embodies all the best qualities of a teacher and mentor and while he has been identified as one of the ten top agriculture educators nationally, everybody who knows him knows he’s really number one.

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