By Lisa M. Ferguson
National Agricultural Statistics Service
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service conducts more than 400 surveys each year measuring the health and well-being of the ag industry. NASS couldn’t do this without its partners in the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. NASDA employs more than 3,000 enumerators across the country who collect agricultural data on behalf of NASS.
NASDA grows and enhances agriculture by forging partnerships between state departments of agriculture, the federal government, and stakeholders. Since 1972, NASDA has been a partner with NASS in providing agricultural statistics.
Enumerators are dedicated people who live and work in the communities they serve, and that’s part of what makes them successful. One such enumerator is Mary Marple, who lives in Buckhannon, W.V. Marple recently celebrated 50 years of data collection on behalf of NASS. She’s responsible for 20 of the 55 counties in West Virginia and currently supervises three field enumerators.
“Mary has been a great enumerator and supervisor,” said Scott Lemmons, deputy regional director of the NASS Eastern Mountain Regional Office. “Her crew always has the best response rates and lowest costs. I wish I could clone her.”
A few of Scott’s favorite memories working with Marple:
• The time she walked in the snow with her supervisor to make an appointment to collect NASS data.
• Marple called farmers while she was recovering in the hospital.
• Attending training schools while temporarily in a wheelchair. She could have stayed home, but you can always count on her to be there.
• Marple received the Enumerator of the Year award in December 2007.
• She volunteered to go work in a neighboring state years before regionalization.
One of Marple’s more memorable experiences involved a farmer who had previously escorted another enumerator off his farm with a rifle, and Marple was asked to attempt to get the farmer to complete the survey.
“It was a very large operator, and we needed the information,” Marple said. “I called to explain who I was and asked if I could stop by. I arrived at the house only to find three large dogs running in the yard. I was bitten by a dog at one time, and I still blow the horn to make sure someone is home before getting out of the car. Doing that, a very tall young man came out and deterred the dogs, so I could go to the house. As I walked in, the father was sitting at a large desk and three adult men sat on a couch. They asked me to sit at the end of the couch, and I proceeded to introduce myself and explain the importance of the survey. I began to ask the questions and I will admit, I had a hard time keeping my hand from shaking. The interview went well and all of the men in the room with me were very polite. I had not seen any women, but as I was getting ready to leave, the father asked me to stay and eat homemade ice cream his wife had made. It was quite an experience, and I was very pleased with the outcome. We never had any more problems getting information from the family.”
Marple’s not only a hardworking enumerator, she’s a dedicated supervisor to other enumerators, often inviting them over for picnics in the summer and parties at Christmas. NASS relies on field enumerators to complete many of its surveys, and exemplary colleagues like Mary Marple continue to be an asset to the agency. Fortunately for NASS and NASDA, Marple says she’s not ready to retire and plans to continue collecting data in support of the agricultural community.