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Matzat Retires from Purdue Extension in LaPorte

Published: Friday, October 4, 2019

A longtime Purdue University Extension educator is stepping down after 26 years of service.

Gene Matzat, ag and natural resources Extension educator in LaPorte County, has traveled to Poland, worked on the "T-by-2000" water conservation program, served as chairman of the ANR section of the Indiana Extension Educators Assn., coordinated the Master Gardener program and Ag Day educational programs in LaPorte County, and was instrumental in helping stage field days each August at the Pinney-Purdue Agricultural Center in Wanatah.

Last Friday, Matzat was honored with a retirement celebration in recognition of his 26 years of service.

Matzat began working for Purdue Extension in 1993, working as a water quality specialist in the Purdue Agronomy Department. Three years later, he switched to Indiana's "T-by-2000" program, working as part of a statewide team in northwestern Indiana to build awareness of soil and water conservation practices and to reduce soil erosion to a "T," or tolerable level.

In 2004, he briefly served as a 4-H youth educator in Elkhart County before returning in 2006 to LaPorte County, where he assumed the role of ANR (agriculture and natural resources) educator.

In 1995, he participated in a faculty and staff exchange with the Warsaw (Poland) Agricultural University, which included travel to Poland to review ag-related water quality issues. Matzat then hosted that group when they came to the United States to learn about water quality practices here.

Over the years, he has served on a number of professional development committees and help plan various conferences and field days.

"I always enjoyed working with PPAC (Pinney-Purdue Agriculture Center) staff and other area Extension educators to plan and host the Pinney Purdue Field Day," Matzat said.

Another one of his highlights is working with the LaPorte Row Crop Producers to host Ag Days for fourth-graders and the popular ag tour and barbecue at local farms to build ag awareness in the community.

"Being the Purdue Extension Master Gardener program coordinator for LaPorte County allowed me to conduct basic training classes, encourage volunteers who developed amazing community education projects related to gardening, meet some amazing people who have a passion for helping others grow, and assist in recognizing their efforts through state and international 'Search for Excellence' awards," Matzat said.

In 2018, Matzat received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Assn. of County Agricultural Agents.

During his 26 years, Matzat has noticed an evolution in his job. He fields more consumer horticulture phone calls compared to the mostly agriculture-related inquiries when he first started with Purdue Extension.

He also notes the impact of technology and, as an Extension educator, a growing reliance on the Internet and other apps to access information.

With the Extension service itself, there are now more female educators filling that role.

Matzat said he will miss the interactions with other Extension professionals, many of whom have become good friends. He also will miss the rapport he developed with members of the LaPorte County Extension team and office, as well as the opportunity to attend trainings and stay abreast of what's new.

Now that he is leaving Purdue Extension, Matzat said he plans to spend more time with family, enjoy time on his property, help out with the family farm, and step up his volunteer service at his church and within the community.

He noted that serving as a Purdue Extension educator is a challenging but very rewarding position and career. For those who accept that challenge, he said it is important to listen to clients and work to address their needs through innovative ways.

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