Lonoke County Extension Agent Donates Flying Time and Plasma to Those in Need

Keith Perkins was born and raised on a family farm in Craighead County, Arkansas. Growing up, Perkins had two cousins who worked as agricultural aviators. One of them took him flying when he was 10 years old, and Perkins’ passion for aviation began then. 

“I loved it. It was something I really enjoyed, and I wanted to learn,” Perkins said. “So, when I graduated high school in 1982, I started flying in 1983.” 

Four years ago, Perkins’ brother was diagnosed with cancer and had to travel to Cleveland, Ohio for treatment. This meant a 12-hour drive or, if flying commercial, at least 10 hours of travel time with layovers and stops. Perkins decided to volunteer with two charitable organizations that provide flights for people in need of transportation for medical care. Volunteer pilots donate the flights at no cost to the people they transport. 

“What I see is there’s a lot of people who have medical needs that are not being met in their hometowns who need the assistance,” Perkins said. “Sometimes it’s because of the distance, like with my brother, and the time it takes to get there. Sometimes they don’t have the money to pay for a plane ticket or the expense of driving to those destinations, or even the ability to drive.” 

 Perkins said he flies for one of these organizations about once a month, and he typically flies half the trip and meets another pilot to fly the other half. “Some people have been dealing with their illness for many years, and for some, it’s their first time to have to go for treatments,” Perkins said. “Some are extremely nervous and scared of what they’re facing, while for others, it’s amazing how they are at peace with what’s going on and are able to transfer that peace and understanding to everyone around them.” Perkins said the people he transports often have a greater impact on him than he does on them. 

Helping Farmers and 4-H Members 

Perkins said that without agriculture, he “wouldn’t be here today.” Perkins’ mother was from Ash Flat, Arkansas, in Sharp County, and his father was from Bono. They each had siblings who married spouses from Monette, Arkansas, and one day, they all traveled to Monette to pick cotton. 

“The story goes that as my mom saw my dad picking cotton, she thought he was a real handsome man, so she picked really fast to catch up with him,” Perkins said. “Once she caught him, they had five kids.” 

After graduating from Westside High School near Bono in 1982, Perkins attended Arkansas State University (ASU), where he earned both his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Business and his master’s degree in Business Administration. In 1993, he began working at ASU as a research specialist for Tina Teague, professor of entomology for ASU and the University of Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. In June 1996, Perkins became a county extension agent in Monroe County. After working as an agent in Monroe County and then St. Francis County, he transferred to Lonoke County, where he worked as staff chair. Keith retired in August 2023. GB

“My primary responsibility is agriculture,” Perkins said. “I like being able to work with my producers on taking the best practices information that we have and seeing them apply that in the field. Whether it’s disease or insects, being able to correctly identify what their problem is and the research-based answer for their problem is one of the best things I do.” 

“Every step along life’s highway is extremely important and extremely challenging, but the rewards always outweigh the negative,” Perkins said. “A lot of the time, our teens just need some encouragement on where they need to go with their life and how best to develop those life skills. The 4-Hpart of our job is extremely important to help develop tomorrow’s leaders, today.” 

Perkins has also been a major supporter of ag safety on the farm. Connecting with the Pipeline Ag Safety Alliance over the last few years, Perkins has helped spread utility safety and awareness to farmers across Arkansas.  

Thank you, Keith, for everything you’ve done personally and professionally to help spread kindness and keep people safe. You are a true humanitarian. 

About the Division of Agriculture 

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

 This article includes excerpts from the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture article by Rebekah Hall titled, Giving back: Lonoke County extension agent donates flying time and blood plasma to people in need. 


Rebekah Hall


Related posts