Director of UC Cooperative Extension for Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties, Michael Murray, retires on Jan. 1, 2011, ending a 32-year career of service to the Northern California agricultural community.

Murray said his interest in agriculture was sparked by a botany professor at San Diego Community College.

"He was so passionate about what he was doing, it was infectious," Murray said.

Murray transferred to UC Davis and earned a bachelor's degree in plant science in 1977 and a master's degree in plant physiology in 1979. He became part of a UC Cooperative Extension internship program in the late 1970s designed to expose promising graduates to a potential career in agricultural extension. Before the one-year internship was over, Murray was offered a farm advisor position in Colusa County.

As the farm advisor for field and row crops, Murray focused on processing tomatoes and vegetable seed crops. From 1990 to 1995, Murray served as the associate regional director of what was then the UC Cooperative Extension North Region. In 1992, he was named director of Cooperative Extension in Colusa County and in 2003 he assumed directorship for Cooperative Extension in Sutter and Yuba counties as well.

UC Cooperative Extension has received consistent support in the communities under Murray's leadership, which he attributes to building strong relationships with county leaders and delivering quality programs.

In 2005, Murray coordinated a pilot leadership development program for Colusa County department heads. The group met once per month for a year with UC and community leaders to learn ways for creating an improved workplace environment. The program was recognized with the National Association of Counties Award of Excellence.

During his career, Murray conducted research on plant growth regulators on tomato and vegetable seed crops. Murray authored 18 peer-reviewed research papers and 155 technical articles. He served terms as president of the California Plant Growth Regulator Society, president of the UC Academic Assembly Council, chair of the Academic Assembly Council Personnel Committee and president of the California Association of Farm Advisors and Specialists.

Since serendipity led to a successful and rewarding career, Murray said he will allow serendipity to shape a fulfilling retirement. Although he has not made formal plans, Murray said he hopes to travel in the United States and overseas and will pursue agricultural consulting opportunities that arise.