Jack B. Elkins, 75: A friend to farmers

He thought this country should never become overdependent on food produced elsewhere. He held a special affinity for small family farms, their heritage, place in society and the so-called global economy.

Moreover, he was concerned about education. He wanted children to know that vegetables don't originate in a grocery store. That someone, somewhere, has to nurture them. When it came to state matters regarding the agriculture industry, he stood up.

To that end, Mr. Elkins served as president of the Henry County Farm Bureau.

"He'd been there since 1998, said Dianne Mitchell Elkins, his wife of 24 years. Like Mr. Elkins, she, too, was raised on a farm in Henry County. Years ago, the couple purchased a roughly 36-acre spread in Hampton.

"We came down here and had a good time till we got our first tax bill," said Mrs. Elkins, chuckling. "We had to figure out something to do with it for it to pay for itself, so we started growing hay."

Josh White, of McDonough, the executive vice president of the Georgia Beef Board and the Georgia Cattlemen's Association, had known Mr. Elkins for a decade. Mr. Elkins, he said, sought to educate people about the No. 1 industry in the state.

"He wanted to educate suburban people about how much agriculture goes on in their own counties, from pick-your-own strawberry fields to nurseries and things like that," Mr. White said.

"Some of his biggest contributions related to legislation. If there was a bill or concern in which agriculture got an unfair hand, he would stand up and fight."

Jack B. Elkins, 75, of Hampton, died Monday at his home from a heart attack. The funeral will be 11 a.m. Thursday in the chapel of Haisten Funerals & Cremations in McDonough, which is in charge of arrangements.

A native of Locust Grove, Mr. Elkins worked as a photographer and later in video teleconferencing as a civilian at Fort McPherson in East Point. That's where he met his wife, who worked in personnel management.

In 1990, he retired from Fort McPherson and eventually became president of the Henry County Farm Bureau. This year, he was appointed to serve on the board of the Metropolitan North Georgia Water District.

To him, agriculture and water consumption went hand in hand.

"His concern was that farmers were going to be penalized when the water-sharing and distribution came about," his wife said. "He had no personal interest in it; we don't irrigate. But he had been going to meetings on that matter all over the state."

On their farm, the couple grew alicia bermuda hay and sold it primarily to horse owners and a few cattle farmers. The typical customer buys about 100 bales a year.

Mr. Elkins loved being out on the spread, working the crop, piddling around with equipment. Breathing the fresh air.

"It's a beautiful place," his wife said. "He loved it. And he loved the farm bureau."

Additional survivors include three daughters, Lea Turner and Lynn Pittard, both of  Hampton; and Shannon Mallard of McDonough; two sons, Michael Yates of Jonesboro, Ark.; James W. Vickery of Abilene, Texas; a brother, John Robert Elkins of Locust Grove; 10 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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