Clifton Peters Retires after 40 Years with USDA

“I was checking my email the other day and saw that I had received emails from former students whom I had previously worked with, saying that they heard about my retirement and that they wanted to congratulate and thank me for my assistance,” recalled Clifton E. Peters, USDA liaison at Alcorn. “It always makes you feel good when you run into students you have helped.”

Peters is retiring after 40 years, born and raised in Tylertown, Mississippi, Peters is the ninth child of a family of 14 children, to Ford and Frankie Peters. He defines himself as a “farm boy.” His father was a sharecropper and the family operated a dairy farm. Because of hard work on the farm from “sun up to sun down, laboring 365 days a year,” Peters wanted to break away and expand into something different.

But the idea of not wanting to pursue a career in agriculture changed when he was a senior in high school. His ag teacher, who was an Alcornite, helped Peters to get in touch with his alma mater and persuaded him to go into agriculture explaining that there was more to agriculture than just farming, that there were plenty different careers available, including teaching. Peters, who was considering aspiring to teach at the time, took the advice of his teacher and enrolled at Alcorn State University majoring in agricultural education.

Continuing with his original career choice as a teacher, Peters would conduct his student teaching at the Prentiss County Vocational Technical Center in Prentiss, Mississippi. Also, during his collegiate career, he had interned with the Soil Conservation Service, now the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in Pennsylvania as a soil scientist, and upon graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Peters got his first employment as a soil conservationist with NRCS. He worked at six different locations in the state of Pennsylvania and worked his way up to become the district conservationist.

Serving as the district conservationist, he became involved with several organizations including the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), which had the goal of finding innovative ways to recruit more minorities into the field of agriculture, especially within the USDA and other governmental agricultural agencies. Peters worked with local high schools and community colleges to recruit students into agriculture. Through those organizations, he encouraged the students to take applicable course work so that they could qualify with NRCS.

Later, he accepted a position working as USDA liaison at Alcorn “because it was home” and to help to recruit more African-American students and women into the agricultural fields. While at Alcorn, Peters has aided several hundred students to graduate from the University and receive jobs with the USDA. Furthermore, Peters also assisted Alcorn with the receiving of several grants, such as a $1,000,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation to create bike trails and pedestrian paths on the campus and a grant for an erosion project to repave the grounds around the gymnasium and across campus.

Thinking back on his USDA experiences, Peters stated with excitement in his eyes, “I got the three-pronged blessing. I got to teach, I got to be in agriculture and I got to help people, and that fits my personality and my character. It was a glove especially made for me. It fit perfectly and I am happy. If you like and enjoy what you are doing, it’s almost not like work!”

He added, “I’ve really enjoyed my time with the USDA. I’ve enjoyed my time here at Alcorn and I know that there are good programs here and that there are people who need the services Alcorn provides. Continue to do well and to serve the people.”

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