The superintendent of the University of California West Side Research and Extension Center, Jimmie Ross, will retire Nov. 3 after 14 years orchestrating agricultural research projects at the 320-acre facility just south of Five Points, Calif.
Ross, who is of Cherokee Indian descent, was born in his grandparents' Buck Mountain farmhouse in Pope County, Ark., the first generation of his family not born on an Oklahoma Indian reservation. As a toddler, Ross moved with his family to the Limoneria Citrus Ranch in Ventura County, where his father became superintendent of maintenance and facilities. Though raised in California, Ross is known for his charming Southern drawl and the down-home expressions he picked up from his Oklahoma and Arkansas relatives.
Ross earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural science and a master's degree in agriculture at California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. He started his agriculture career as a row crop farmer in Oregon and then spent three years administering vocational education projects for Native Americans near Bethal, Alaska. To get back into farming, Ross became superintendent of the Matanuska Research Farm in Palmer, Alaska.
“When I left for Alaska, I was sure I'd be happy if I never heard the ker-chunk, ker-chunk of a baler again. But when springtime came and I was pushing paper, I missed it,” Ross said. “I just needed to get back where I could kick a clod every once in a while.”
Ross, an avid outdoorsman, said he and his family highly valued the opportunities in Alaska for hunting, fishing and other activities.
“I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in the world,” he said, “but nine winters in Alaska was enough.”
Ross said he felt privileged to work with local farmers, UC Cooperative Extension and campus-based scientists and the staff at the West Side Research and Extension Center for 14 years.
“The West Side has been the perfect place for me,” Ross said. “I've enjoyed the challenge of farming while trying to control variables. In the research business, you're successful no matter how the project turns out. Some things just don't work. Even then, we've saved the farmers from trying it and finding that it won't work.”