Most days, Bulloch County native Bill Tyson can be found out in a field somewhere, under the pounding sun or bitter winter rain, checking crops.
He isn’t a farmer, but Tyson, as Bulloch County’s extension coordinator, is often the cog that keeps farmers’ wheels turning.
He doesn’t just give advice over the phone. Tyson goes out to the farms and inspects crops, giving advice on herbicides, pesticides, disease control, tilling practices and even the type of seed a farmer should plant. Wednesday, he was at a Stilson area farm, supervising the harvesting of “test plot” of cotton as part of his job as the county’s University of Georgia extension coordinator. He tested, weighed, and took samples of the cotton harvest, comparing bolls from plants that were treated with different chemicals and from different types of seeds to determine what products will be more profitable for area producers.
Tyson’s hands-on approach and interest in his work could be reasons why the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce agribusiness committee chose him as the 2018 Ag Partner of the Year.
Tyson accepted the surprise honor Friday at the annual Farm City Week luncheon, catered by Shug’s on Main at the Bulloch County Center for Agriculture.
Traditionally a speaker gives hints to the annual honoree, often a farmer but sometimes an agriculture partner, only revealing the recipient’s name at the end. This year, a short video featured several local farmers singing Tyson’s praises — but without naming him.
Comments heard during the video included “Without this guy, Bulloch County would be lost;” “He is a real asset and always has our back;” and “We can always trust in him to tell us the right thing.”
But when he came forward to accept the honor — as well as a trophy and jacket — Tyson turned the tables and thanked the people with whom he works — the farmers.
I don’t know how you did this without me knowing about it,” he said. “I am the luckiest person to be able to work with these people in agriculture. In good times and bad times they are always looking for the bright spot.”
His voice broke as he continued. “When you’re working with the best folks in agriculture … thank you. Thank you.”
A few days later, taking a few minutes to talk to a reporter after a long day of picking and testing cotton, Tyson said again how much he appreciates the people who farm.
“They are wonderful folks, good hardworking folks,” he said. “Without farmers, I couldn’t have a job.”
Services and honors
Tyson is available to answer questions and solve problems ranging from weeds in croplands to termites in your home. His services are available to any Bulloch County resident, but the majority of his work involves farming.
Tyson’s years of service to the community led to him recently being honored by UGA with the D.W. Brooks Award for Excellence in Public Service Extension last year. The D.W. Brooks Awards are the highest honors given by the college.
For more than 22 years, Tyson has worked in Bulloch and Effingham counties as a UGA Extension county agent. He started out in Bulloch County, then worked in Effingham County for 15 years. He returned to Bulloch County in 2014.
“I work with farmers, homeowners, the taxpayers of Bulloch County,” he said. “I help with problems with insects, disease, weed control and more.”
He does a great deal more than that, in reality. Tyson is the go-to man for many. He has a hand in peanut inspections, helps farmers determine the best time to harvest crops, teaches people how to detect pests in their fields and homes, and offers advice on when and what to spray or use to battle the pests, diseases or weeds.
But each day he puts on his boots, he doesn’t know for sure what he day will bring.
“You never know from day to day what phone calls you’ll get and what they involve,” he said with a chuckle. “With 50,000 acres of cotton, 25,000 acres of peanuts” and all the other crops in between, each day is adventurous.
Who is Bill Tyson?
Tyson married to Kim Turner Tyson, and the couple has three boys — Turner, 19; Gunnar, 16 and Konner, 13.
Originally from Brooklet, Tyson worked in the farming industry and as a Georgia Ag Chem employee before taking the position as UGA Extension agent.
He is the son of a former Bulloch County banker, a past president of Farmers and Merchants Bank, Billy Tyson He grew up in Brooklet and graduated from Southeast Bulloch before heading off to the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College for his associates degree in science then to the University of Georgia for his bachelor’s degree in science and master's in education.
After college, Tyson began his career with the extension service in Bulloch County working under Wes Harris as an agent in training. A few years later, he accepted the county coordinator position in neighboring Effingham County.
He returned to Bulloch County in 2014 as UGA Extension coordinator.
He is a family-oriented man, and expressed great appreciation for his family understanding and supporting him when he spends hours each day away from home.
In his spare time, Tyson enjoys hunting, fishing and playing golf as well as attending sporting events in which is sons participate.
“I thank God for the ability to work with such fine folks and I thank my wife and family for their love and support,” he said.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.