Jim Bannon recently capped off a career serving agriculture at the university where he learned to love farming. The former director of outlying units for the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station (AAES) at Auburn University, Bannon retired Sept. 1.
His hard work to improve agriculture in the state and across the nation earned him the Alabama Farmers Federation’s highest honor — the Service to Agriculture Award.
“I’m honored and humbled to be chosen for this award,” Bannon said. “I always tried to be a servant leader, and I believed in management by walking around. You can learn a lot by getting out and doing work.”
A city boy raised in Montgomery, Bannon’s agriculture work started as a student at Auburn in the late ‘60s. He fondly remembers beginning the day at 2:30 a.m. at the milking parlor, finishing work five hours later, washing off his boots and going to class.
“I still have notes from my rural sociology class at 8 a.m. where I drifted off to sleep and didn’t finish writing,” he said with a laugh.
After graduating from Auburn, his first job was with the Wiregrass Research and Experiment Station in Headland from 1972 to 1974. It was there he met his wife, Susan.
Bannon received his doctorate in plant pathology from Louisiana State University in 1977. The following year, he joined the research staff at Monsanto in St. Louis, where he was part of the team responsible for developing Roundup®. At the next stop in his career, Micogen, he discovered a previously unidentified fungus.
Bannon returned to Auburn University in 1989 as the director of the E.V. Smith Research Center in Shorter and was promoted to director of all outlying units in 2001. At the time of his retirement, AAES included 15 outlying units. He said AAES projects provide essential research for improving farming practices.
“Regardless of the tools used to breed new varieties or discover new agriculture chemistry, it still must be tested under field conditions,” Bannon said. “The AAES is really where the rubber meets the road. If it doesn’t work out here, it’s not going to work.”
Federation President Jimmy Parnell said Bannon’s exemplary career made him highly deserving of the Service to Agriculture award.
“Dr. Bannon is very humble about his contributions to Alabama’s farmers, but he has been a part of important agricultural research for nearly 40 years,” Parnell said. “We are proud to recognize his passion and dedication with the Service to Ag Award.”
Outside his work with AAES, Bannon is adviser for Auburn’s Alpha Gamma Rho chapter, an agriculture fraternity, and was Auburn’s chairman of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). He recently finished his final assignment at Auburn, writing a 555-page report to continue the school’s IACUC accreditation for responsible and humane treatment, care and use of all research animals.
“Agriculture is the backbone of this country,” Bannon said. “It’s just like the sign says — ‘Farming Feeds Alabama.’ It’s so important, and most individuals don’t understand that.”
Bannon will receive his award Dec. 7 at the opening general session of the Federation’s 93rd annual meeting in Montgomery.