MOULTRIE — In a career of more than 30 years as a University of Georgia Extension agent, Glenn Beard’s work has nurtured the local vegetable industry and helped farmers as far away as China.

Farmer Louie Perry, who attended a surprise party for Beard, credited him with making Colquitt County the largest grower of vegetables in the state.

Beard has been the resident vegetable expert in the county for nearly 20 of his 33 years as an Extension agent. He started work with the University of Georgia at the agricultural research center in Tifton and then worked 13 years in Cook County before coming to work here in 1994.

“I have kind of mixed emotions,” he said Friday “I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. Trying to help the community in any way I could has always been something I’ve tried to do. Ag has always been in my system and continues to be so.”

Beard said he would take some time off to work on a “honey-do list” before deciding the next chapter in his life.

“There are several things I’m looking into,” he said.

In China, Beard taught agricultural concepts such as soil fertility, pH and crop rotation to farmers. He also is the author of Diseases and Conditions of Vegetables in Georgia: A Pictorial Dictionary.

“Glenn’s service to agricultural communities in Georgia has had a major impact in the state and beyond,” Jennifer Frum, UGA’s Vice President for Public Service and Outreach said during a 2012 ceremony in Athens where he received the Walter Barnard Hill Award for Distinguished Achievement in Public Service and Outreach. “He has earned a national reputation for his expertise in recognizing and identifying vegetable diseases and has become a resource for farmers and county agents across the Southeast.”

Perry said that the experience of Beard and former Extension agent Scott Brown, who retired a few years ahead of Beard and also with three decades on the job, may never be replaced.

UGA in recent years has cut the number of Extension agents. Colquitt County, the largest agricultural county in the state had three positions cut to two.

Colquitt County lead all counties in 2012 in total farmgate value with $545 million, with the second-place Franklin County coming in at $399.57 million, according to UGA. Colquitt County also had the largest total vegetables value at $179.43 million, which accounted for 18.65 percent of the value for the entire state.

“The thing about it is, we’ve always been fortunate in Colquitt County in having top agents, specialists really,” said Perry, who has contributed toward a scholarship fund to help potential county agents in pursuing advanced degrees. “This is the last we’ll have, I’m afraid.”

With less agents in the field, that means there are fewer being groomed to fill the shoes of people like Beard and Brown, Perry said.

“Not that we wont have some good young ones coming in, but they won’t have the experience, the mentoring.

“We’re the largest vegetable-growing county in the state, and Glenn’s a big part of that.”