As a young boy in the 1930s, Donald Butler Jr. donned layers of winter clothing as he and his father Don Sr. lit smudge pots to battle frigid, grove-threatening winter temperatures on the family’s lemon and avocado farm in Carpinteria, Calif.

“My Dad and I would get up at 2 o’clock in the morning, light the pots, and put them out after the sun rose,” Butler reflects. “Then I’d walk or ride my bike three to four miles to school.”

After school, young Don would come back home, fill the pots with diesel fuel, and relight the pots to ward off another cold night.

Technology brought improvements to the Butler family farm. They were one of the first citrus growers to install newfangled wind machines powered by a five-cylinder Kinner aircraft engine.

Don Jr. reminisced about these and other experiences as he sat down with Western Farm Press upon his retirement this fall as Director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture (ADA).

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Butler led the ADA at its Phoenix headquarters from 2003-2013. While the Butler clan lived in Tucson, the family patriarch, Don, drove to Phoenix Sunday afternoons, worked the week in the office, lived in a nearby apartment, and then headed home Friday afternoons. For 10 years.

Now retired from the ADA and a mere 88 years young, Butler pledges to spend more time with his wife Blue, their six children, 13 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.

“My bride and children thought it was time for me to come home to Tucson,” Butler said with serenity in his voice.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed working in agriculture – the people and the industry.”

Butler is looking forward to family time. Though retired by the book, Butler plans to continue to dangle his spurs in agriculture as a consultant to transport feeder calves from Mexico to Arizona and California.