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Cooperative extension superintendent retiring

June 10, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — Richard Tamayo, retiree.

It just doesn't sound right for those who know him, for those who have worked with him for the past 39 years at the University of California's Cooperative Extension in this city.

For 30 of those years Tamayo was the extension's superintendent of agriculture.

Before that, when the extension was called the Imperial Valley Agricultural Center, Tamayo worked in the fields as a cultivationist.

In his role as superintendent, he has overseen almost every single experiment ever conducted at the extension.

The crops he has grown and monitored for scientists and researchers have helped those brainiacs come up with pesticides to fight the whitefly, new varieties of crops and higher-yield seeds.

His role in the process is the practical application of the scientist's theories.

For instance, Tamayo grows the crops on which a scientist wants to test a fertilizer. He has to log a daily report of that crop's progress.


To grow the crop he has to make sure the conditions are monitored closely and recorded.

The scientist makes his findings based on Tamayo's data.

"We have to see if it is really practical. Just because it worked in the lab doesn't mean it's going to work in the field," he said.

For enough of Tamayo's 39 years it has.

He's shown through his years of meticulous work that there might be few people in the Imperial Valley who know more about farming here than he does.

Now he's retiring.

"I'm retiring at my maximum. I put in my years of service. It wouldn't benefit me to stay any longer," he said.

Tamayo will receive 97 percent of his salary for the rest of his life, "plus benefits," he said.

While Tamayo walked around the extension's fields Friday afternoon, he was asked how the extension will replace him.

"Well …," he trailed off.

"Some of the researchers are asking the same questions," he said.

It's going to be a tough job to replace Tamayo, maybe impossible, since he has no contemporaries.

The example he used: In the last four years Tamayo has grown crops for a research project that's being conducted for a professor at the University of California, Riverside.

There are 16 students working on that project hoping to use the results for their doctorate degrees.

Someone who hasn't worked on those fields for the past few years could have a hard time jumping in and keeping every growing condition consistent for the test results.

"There are a lot of things that are taken for granted, you know, that I do automatically," he said.

He won't be doing those things automatically anymore.

"I don't have to do anything," he said with a laugh.

Tamayo, a Heber native, said he's looking forward to traveling; maybe he'll get back into coaching.

Who knows?

"Maybe get me a motorhome," he said.

Tamayo is 58 years old. He'll be 59 on July 1. The three kids he raised with wife, Adela Tamayo, are grown and working.

The Tamayos will have plenty of time to do nothing.

If he wants to work, Tamayo has a few standing job offers from Imperial Valley farmers but, he said, "I don't want to get too deeply involved; weekends and such."

No one should blame him.

From the time he could walk, Tamayo has farmed.

His father, Santiago, taught him the basics of farming and instilled in him his work ethic.

"The farm is the number one priority," he said.

That meant little Richard Tamayo was working on that farm on the weekends, almost every day.

"When I became an adult, I realized, that's when I learned," he said.

In his years at the extension no farm work fazed him.

He learned: "You just did it," he said.

But not anymore.

"The time is here," he said.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 at

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