After 36 years as an agronomist/weed science advisor with UC Cooperative Extension, Steven Wright retired June 30. Wright authored, co-authored or contributed to more than 117 peer-reviewed publications, 347 non-peer-reviewed articles, and 11 book chapters published by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. He volunteered in many other countries and taught courses at Fresno State.
Despite these achievements, Wright said he counts the relationships he developed with local farmers, pest control advisers, consultants, private industry, university researchers, students, UC and county staff as his greatest career accomplishments.
“When I think over my career, I think of the people who I was privileged to work with more than the projects,” Wright said.
A native of San Diego, Wright earned a bachelor’s degree in plant science at Fresno State in 1972. Upon graduation, he and his wife joined the Peace Corps, spending three years working with Guatemalan native farmers.
“I did research and extension work on corn, wheat and potatoes,” Wright said. “That’s what motivated me to come back to California and do graduate work at Fresno State. I wanted to work in extension.”
He praised the opportunities afforded to him during his college days at Fresno State.
“They had all kinds of farm projects we could do,” Wright said. “I had grain, cotton and vegetable projects as a student. I was doing everything from planting to harvesting. In addition to working for the school farm and private farms, I owe a lot to the professors there, who offered the applied aspects of farming along with their teaching programs.”
While completing his master’s degree in agronomy in December 1980, Wright began work with UC Cooperative Extension in Tulare County. His education and work experience was immediately applicable on the job, where he was hired to work with cereal crops. Two years later, when the UCCE weed science advisor retired, Wright’s research and teaching experience with weed management allowed him to take on this additional responsibility in Tulare County. When the UCCE cotton advisor retired, Wright stepped up and began to also work with cotton. Wright was later given the opportunity to cover cotton and cereal crops work with Kings County farmers.
Besides focusing much of his research on all aspects of cereals and cotton production, he also worked on weed control projects in rangeland, irrigation districts, the first herbicide-tolerant crops and later herbicide-resistant weeds in both annual and permanent crops.
“The job got bigger and changed all the time,” Wright said. “I enjoyed working in different disciplines, from controlling yellow starthistle in the foothills, to working with large- and small-acreage farmers in Tulare and Kings counties. I thrived on that.”
Wright was involved with administration and committees, serving as president of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Academic Assembly Council, UC ANR Program Council member, and president and honorary member of California Weed Science Society. He also coordinated the building and management of California Youth Soccer Association soccer fields in Visalia.
In retirement, Wright said he plans stay in Visalia and spend time taking long walks with his young chocolate Labrador retriever. He is seeking emeritus status with UCCE and plans to work part time continuing with a few research projects that are underway. He is planning on pursuing his passion for international volunteer work and recreational outdoor activities, including camping, snow skiing with the best ski helmet, going to Morro Bay, and enjoying three grandchildren.