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George Cummins has worked on rural development By Jean Caspers-Simmet

simmet@agrinews.com

CHARLES CITY, Iowa -- George Cummins has worked on rural development and rural leadership for years, but he's quick to point out that his ideas come from somewhere else.

"A lot of it is connecting people,'' he said. "Somebody wants to know about something. Somebody else has experience. If you get a critical mass, good things will happen.''

Cummins organized value-added agriculture classes and wrote a curriculum to train people to develop value-added enterprises. To succeed, Cummins tells his students, projects must be profitable, environmentally sound and socially acceptable. Many of the people who attended Cummins' courses went on to develop livestock, ethanol and other value-retained ventures.

"I'm proud of what's happening in north Iowa,'' Cummins said. "We've been ahead of the curve. We have an excellent core of leadership, which is essential.''

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Cummins said he gives farmers technical advice on raising good crops, but that alone won't make them successful. They have to understand the ever-changing rules of the game.

Pam Johnson, a Floyd farmer and chairman of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, said Cummins is one of the unsung heroes of Floyd County. Cummins has been a great advocate for agriculture and the grower, she said. He's been a catalyst in bringing the concept of value-added, value-retained agriculture to the growers and works to get farmers into the value chain

"George pushed all of us to think 'out of the box' and think about positioning our businesses for the future,'' Pam said. "I am grateful for all that George has done as Extension director, field specialist and a volunteer. He puts people and ideas together to make things happen and is truly extension at work.''

Erwin Johnson, a Charles City farmer, has been friends with Cummins since they were students at Iowa State University. He and Pam are not related.

"On a professional level, I've used the knowledge and expertise I've gained from George to make my business more successful,'' Erwin said. "He's very good at what he does.''

Erwin describes Cummins as a development person "under the cloak of a crop specialist.''

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