As an extension specialist in farm management, Don Pershing has made his mark with Indiana farm management, Don Pershing has made his mark with Indiana farm families. But, according to Georfe Patrick, Purdue professor of agricultural economics, “His most important impact came through the leveraging of his efforts through other educators and specialists.
A native of Washington, Ind., Pershing received his B.S. degree in agricultural education from Purdue in 1951. He served in the U.S. Army in Korea, and then returned to Purdue to complete a master's degree in agronomy in 1954. After teaching vocational agriculture for five years, he began his career with extension in 1959. After serving 21 years as a field extension agent, Pershing was appointed in 1980 as a Farm Management Specialist in Purdue's Department of Agricultural Economics. In this position, he provided a key link between campus staff and field staff. This initially temporary appointment lasted more than 14 years until Pershing's retirement in 1994.
Pershing was a pioneer in the use of computerized decision-making tools in farm management. He helped train and support more than 40 extension agents in the use of the Family and Agricultural Resource Management (F.A.R.M.) program, which during the farm financial crisis of the early 1980s was used to help Indiana farmers make critical, and often difficult, business decisions.
"Don's ability to talk the farmer's language made him a respected expert in the agricultural community, as well as among his peers," recalled Larry Curless, a farmer and owner of a tax and record keeping business.
Wayne Williams, extension educator in Clinton County, was one of the agents trained by Pershing in the use of F.A.R.M. Recalling how Pershing supported him as he worked with farmers, Williams said, "I have a great respect and admiration for Don's strength, sincerity and dedicated efforts during those demanding times!!"
Pershing's professional passions are farm record keeping and comparative business analysis. He worked with the FINPACK computer financial analysis package, and developed a cooperative effort with Indiana Farm Bureau Services to reach more Hoosier farmers. In the early 1990s, he took his expertise into the international arena as he traveled to Poland and train Polish extension workers in the usefulness of farm records, comparative analysis and computerized decision-making aids.
For many years Pershing served as the secretary-treasurer of the Indiana Farm Management Association, a role that included organizing the association's annual farm management tour. In retirement, he continues to offer farm management counseling to Hoosiers as a contributor to "Profit Planners" in Indiana Prairie Farmer.
Pershing's volunteer service activities reflect the compassion and caring that he brought to his work. He is a long time member of Gideons International, he volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, and has served the United Methodist Church at the district level and as the long-time treasurer of his local congregation.
"I never once can I recall when Don said "no" to a request for help," said David Petritz, agriculture and natural resources program leader for Purdue Cooperative Extension. "In many cases, he didn't need to be asked. He just jumped in and helped when he saw a need."