AgriLife Research associate Kerby retires after 27 years

  • Writer: Adam Russell, 903-834-6191, adam.russell@ag.tamu.edu
  • Contact: Dr. Monte Rouquette, 903-834-6191, m-rouquette@tamu.edu

OVERTON – Joel Kerby finished his final cattle roundup for Texas A&M AgriLife Research after 27 years at the AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton.

Texas A&M AgriLife Research associate Joel Kerby and his herding dog, Ben. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Adam Russell)

Kerby, of Overton, grew up in Frisco until his family took over a family farm in Roscoe when he was a teenager. He learned how to plow and plant cotton, wheat and grain sorghum and raised show cows, including a calf he caught at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo calf scramble.

He graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in mechanized agriculture, and there met his wife, Marsha. They returned to the family farm at Roscoe before moving to his wife’s hometown of Longview.

Kerby, an AgriLife Research associate, started working at the Overton center in 1990 as part of the crew that maintained the center farms, including mending fences and hauling hay.

In 1993, Kerby began working in the forage research project of Dr. Monte Rouquette, AgriLife Research forage physiologist, whose research focuses on forages and their impact on cattle production.

“It was a steep learning curve,” Kerby said. “I had never taken a single animal science course in my life and here I was working with animals.”

Kerby said his predecessor M.J. Florence took him under his wing and taught him about working cattle and pasture management.

Rouquette said Kerby has been an integral part of his research planning and projects.

Kerby managed much of the day-to-day research operations, from pastures and forages to calving and tending pasture treatments for cattle designated to forage research.

“When you have cattle in the pastures, it’s not an 8 to 5 or five days a week job,” Rouquette said. “He showed great attention to detail and is someone who was actively engaged in the operation to where it was part of his life.”

Rouquette said Kerby mentored numerous graduate students and taught them the ins and outs of practical applications when researching on a working farm.

“Joel has been a mentor to many graduate students and that is one thing you can’t replace,” he said. “He taught them how to logistically deal with our management strategies, and he taught a lot of grad students how to drive a stick-shift truck.”

Kerby has been involved with mentoring future generations of farmers and ranchers outside his role at the Overton center.

He has served as a 4-H Adult Leader for Rusk County, including time as the group’s president and chairman for two decades. He also served as a board member for the Rusk County Youth Project Show. Kerby was also club manager for the Roundup 4-H Club in Overton for 11 years and served in numerous capacities with the Harvest Festival Livestock Show in Longview as well.

He has received several commendations during his tenure, including the Technical Support Award – Soil and Crop Sciences Department in 2001 and Vice Chancellor’s Awards in Excellence in 2006. He also received an excellence award from Texas 4-H and Youth Development in 2012 and the Build East Texas Award in 2013.

Kerby has also served on the Overton city council and school board.

Dr. Charles Long, resident director for AgriLife Research at the Overton center, said Kerby contributed much to the programs at the Overton center over the years.

“Joel is a great example of the Texas A&M AgriLife employees who make our programs what they are,” he said. “He’s a leader in the workplace and in his private life and community and is well respected by all who know him.”

Kerby said working outside most days and his co-workers at the center were his favorite aspects of his job the past 27 years.

His retirement plans include helping operations at Philley’s Peach Orchard, tending his own cattle and returning to the family farm in Roscoe to help his brother.

“I’m a farmer at heart,” he said. “I love to plant and watch things grow.”

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