Elmer Burchfield

Elmer Burchfield
Photo by Beth Wynn

Cotton still was "king" when Elmer Burchfield began working in 1963 for Mississippi State University's Delta Branch Experiment Station. Over the decades, he has seen other crops supplant cotton and also watched numerous other changes take place.

For him, however, the one thing at the major research facility in Stoneville that remains the same: good Delta people.

"During these past 50 years, I have worked with a tremendous group of people and have had great support from university units," the Kosciusko native said.

After growing up on a 160-acre cattle farm, he entered MSU to study business administration and agriculture. Following graduation, he accepted a position at Stoneville to work as a research associate with veteran plant pathologist C. David Ranney.

While work with Ranney brought him to the heart of the distinctive West Mississippi region, it was a chance meeting with Leland-native Diane Abraham that kept Burchfield there. As he recounted, what began as a blind date would evolve into what now is 50 years of marriage.

After three years as a research assistant, Burchfield was named assistant to station superintendent Walter K. Porter. For the past 30 years, Burchfield has served as the station's business manager. Where his first budget totaled just under a million, today he supervises an operating budget of approximately $12 million.

As far as Burchfield is concerned, the Mississippi Legislature's passage during the 1960s of House Bill 471 ranks as one of the most significant events of his business management tenure. In the 1970s, the Delta Branch Experiment Station was re-designated the Delta Research and Extension Center to include the MSU Extension Service.

"Mississippi House Bill 471 has made the DREC what it is," he said. "It funded the creation of many positions at the station, as well as construction of an administration office and laboratory building. The bill also delineated the 19 counties that form the Delta."

In 1999, MSU's Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine recognized Burchfield's long and distinguished service with its Louis and Doris Wise Support Staff Award.

A rose hobbyist in his off-work hours, Burchfield helped establish a station rose garden in the shape of a delta from his own collection of bushes, some more than a decade old.

While 50 years is long time to work anywhere, Burchfield said he continues to enjoy his career and is not yet setting a retirement date.

"I have enjoyed every day of working at the DREC," he emphasized. "This is a good place to make a living; you work with good people and have good benefits."