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Longtime extension director retires Friday

DOBSON — For more than 30 years, Bryan Cave has been a go-to guy for local farmers in helping their operations succeed and now he is moving on to a new chapter in life.

Cave has retired as county extension director for the N.C. Cooperative Extension’s Surry Center. His last day on the job was Friday, capping a 34-year career that began in 1988 when he was hired as an assistant agricultural extension agent.

In 2007, Cave was promoted to extension director.

Through that role, Cave continued his efforts begun earlier to support and advise livestock and forage producers along with providing leadership for the county Cooperative Extension staff. It now has nine people, including the director position.

The impact Bryan Cave has made on the Surry County landscape was highlighted Tuesday when a retirement party was held at the Surry County Government Service Center in Dobson in honor of his contributions.

This included a “floating” period when well-wishers could stop by to help celebrate the milestone, along with dinner and speeches.

It is estimated that at least 200 people came through as part of the occasion involving “Bryan being put out to pasture,” as an announcement for the party stated.

The event included Cave receiving the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, which is considered the highest civilian honor given in North Carolina. Making the presentation was Dr. Rich Bonanno, an associate dean and director at N.C. State Extension.

Cave also was presented with a personalized belt buckle from his son Joshua as a retirement gift.

Career touched many

Before launching his N.C. Cooperative Extension career, in 1987 Cave received a B.S. degree in animal science from N.C. State University, where he later earned a master’s degree in that field, according to information from Nicole Vernon, a staff member at the Surry Center.

He began work in Surry County with responsibilities that included providing educational opportunities and leadership to livestock and forage producers.

Within seven years, Cave had excelled in leading local producers to the point that an estimated increase in farm income exceeding $10 million had occurred and he was promoted to a full extension agent.

Over the years, Cave became known for his networking abilities, which have enabled invaluable partnerships to be formed. As county extension director, he organized and allocated resources to ensure his local staff had what has been needed to be successful, the information provided by Vernon further states.

His presence also has made a difference in places other than Surry.

For more than 10 years, N.C. Cooperative Extension utilized Cave’s skills to assist other counties where there was a vacant extension director position and he served on an interim basis in Yadkin, Wilkes, Alleghany and Stokes counties. During that time, he helped rebuild, restructure and strengthen county offices.

Cave also is credited with creating bridges that linked N.C. State University to local county government and led to greater understanding of each partner creating a more productive work environment.

During his tenure, Cave also was an advocate for farming, playing a critical role in the education of non-farm citizens of Surry County to the importance of agriculture in their lives and the economic well-being of the county, region and state.

This has included developing annual Farm Animal Day programs in local schools to connect with younger students.

Cave frequently has been invited to speak at regional economic-development training programs for business professionals in the Piedmont region, along with addressing Rotary, Ruritan and other civic groups.

His reputation for knowing the facts — which he can readily recite off the top of his head — and having an intimate knowledge of topical farm issues have been pluses in this regard.

He has served as a member of numerous economic-development and other boards and organizations such as the North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association.

Cave’s imprint is expected to have a lasting impression for years to come.

The retiree, a resident of Dobson, now plans to be involved in an unspecified part-time endeavor in addition to spending more time with his family.

It includes his wife of 35 years, Angie; their children, Joshua and Sarah; and five grandchildren.

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