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We’re going to miss our friend Darrell

Darrell Blackwelder, retiring? Who will we call with plant questions?

Who’s going to tell us what caterpillar is eating our trees?

Darrell has been as much a part of the Salisbury Post as any full-time reporter. He has been a part of the paper for as long as I’ve worked here, and that’s 31 years.

In his Friday column, he thanked me and Elizabeth Cook for working with him over the years. He needs to know how much we appreciate him working with us.

We never would have had a home and garden page without him. We wouldn’t have tried the microsite Farm Carolina without his help. We constantly refer calls to him. Most of all, we’ve come to expect him to be thorough and easy to understand — and to hang on through all the changes both of our businesses have seen.

Darrell has shared tips on stories he hears from around the county on all topics; he’s had his eyes and his ears open to the public, all of the public, not just a select few.

He always comes through in the clutch. We need something last minute? He provides. Need an expert for a story? We call Darrell or he refers us.

And he’s up-to-date on all things horticultural, if not ahead. He reads catalogs, websites and blogs. He knows what flowers are going to be popular and can tell you if they’ll work in your yard. He knows who has strawberries, blueberries, peaches.

His work with the Salisbury Farmers Market brought vendors together under the big green tent that was once on South Main Street. He pushed to make the market accessible to all, including those with WIC vouchers and SNAP cards, and has tried to encourage people from all walks of life to enjoy the bounty of Rowan County growers.

As his coworkers have said, he always has plans and ideas. “What if we …” and most of the time, it works just fine. Collaboration has been important to him, whether it’s Extension agents working together or reporters and agents working together. He can step back and see how things work and it’s important to him to tell the public.

Dealing with the public is never easy, but Darrell has not just dealt with people, he looks for opportunities to reach more people, with more information, and not just what they want to know, but what they need to know.

He’s rained on a few parades, but he figures it’s important for people not to waste time or money or get frustrated when plans don’t work out.

Although Darrell has handled the same questions forever, such as, “When can I prune my …”  or, “My tomatoes have …” he gives the latest information he has. He can’t even remember how many strange bugs and critters people have brought to him.

People feel so comfortable talking to him. He’s like your buddy from down the street.

There are so many reasons we’ll miss Darrell, as a writer, as an expert. We hope he’ll keep writing things for us, telling us about his farm tours and his travel adventures. He likes that idea, too.

But who’s going to call on Wednesday mornings and say, “Hey, girl. Anything big going on?”

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