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Sugarbeet Growers Magazine February 2014 : Page 4

Retirement Beckons Upper Midwest Sugarbeet Fixtures Larry Smith (left) & Allan Cattanach (right) Reflect Upon Their Lengthy Careers llan Cattanach grew up on a cen-tral Wisconsin hog and dairy farm. Larry Smith’s father was a John Deere dealer in east central Minnesota. Hav-ing spent their formative years far away from sugarbeet country, neither could have imagined that their respec-tive careers would end up being con-structed around this crop. But that’s exactly what transpired — and now, after nearly four decades as two of the most recognizable names and faces in the Upper Midwest sugarbeet commu-nity, both men are transitioning toward retirement. Smith, who joined the staff of the University of Minnesota’s Northwest A Experiment Station at Crookston in 1971, fully retires from the university in May. Cattanach, who became Ameri-can Crystal Sugar Company’s general agronomist in 1998 following more than two decades as University of Min-nesota/North Dakota State University extension sugarbeet specialist, is “on a phased retirement plan.” He expects a more-defined timetable to be worked out by this coming summer in consulta-tion with his Crystal employers. Everyone’s career eventually winds down, of course. But it’s safe to say that the departures of Smith and Cat-tanach will definitely leave those proverbial “big shoes to fill.” Both men have made huge contributions to sugar-beet growers and the region’s beet in-dustry in general. Both likewise are recognized for their distinctive commu-nications styles: straight-talking, forth-right — and often laced with humor. They’ve also known and worked with each other for the bulk of their careers. After earning his B.S. and Ph.D. de-grees (the latter in agronomy, with mi-nors in soils and plant pathology) from the University of Minnesota, Smith joined the university’s Crookston sta-tion as a general agronomist in 1971, focusing on plant breeding and weed control. When the university created the new position of “sugarbeet agrono-mist” at Crookston in 1978, Smith was a natural fit. After earning his B.S. in soil science from the University of Wisconsin, Cat-tanach received a graduate assistant-ship to North Dakota State University to work on his master’s degree. Uncle Sam called next, and he spent two years in the army during the Vietnam War. After his discharge, Cattanach joined the NDSU Extension Service, first as assistant county agent in Pem-bina County and then as the Renville County extension agent. In 1975 he re-turned to Fargo as the UM/NDSU ex-tension sugarbeet specialist. Six years later, Cattanach received a sabbatical to work toward his Ph.D. in soil science from the University of Min-nesota. He conducted his field research at the UM-Crookston station. (“Yeah, we had to do his thesis work for him,” Smith quips in a trademark wisecrack. “I took any help I could get,” Cattanach jokes in response.) Though they were already acquainted, that period ce-mented a close professional and per-sonal relationship between the two men that continues to this day. In 1983 Smith went into administra-tion, becoming the head of the UM Northwest Experiment Station (later renamed the Northwest Research and Outreach Center). He held that post for 27 years — but all the while contin-uing to conduct field research. In 2010 Smith left the administrative chair and returned to being a full-time sugarbeet agronomist. Both men have received a number of professional awards throughout their careers, including the Sugarbeet Distin-guished Service Award from the Sugar-beet Research and Education Board of Minnesota and North Dakota. They’ve been board members of the American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists (Cattanach is ASSBT’s immediate past president), and Cattanach also has served as president of the Beet Sugar Photo: Don Lilleboe 4 THE SUGARBEET GROWER February 2014

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