Ag News

UGA Associate Dean for Extension Laura Perry Johnson retires

by Emily Cabrera

Posted on May 16, 2024 at 1:48 AM

By Emily Cabrera, UGA

For a pre-teen Laura Perry Johnson, joining 4-H in fifth grade was the ticket that would take her to exciting new places beyond her home on Pineywoods Farm in Moultrie, where her family has farmed and raised cattle since 1830.

“That was the beginning of a wonderful journey in 4-H that expanded my horizons. I did everything there was to do in 4-H — judging teams, camp, and I got to go on an exchange trip to Iowa, a rare experience for a girl from South Georgia. Through showing livestock and judging teams, I got to travel all over the country — it opened a huge world for me,” said Johnson, whose experiences led her to the University of Georgia as a first-year student in 1983.

At the time, the U.S. was experiencing the worst farm crisis since the 1920s and 1930s, and her father encouraged her to look beyond agriculture for her career due to farming’s uncertain future.

“I had a love for agriculture, although I knew I probably was not going to be a farmer like my dad,” said Johnson, who enrolled in the College of Education but changed her major to animal science before classes had even started.

That decision led to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the Department of Animal and Dairy Science in the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (CAES). After earning her doctorate, Johnson took a position with UGA Cooperative Extension as a youth livestock Extension specialist.

“After two weeks, I was absolutely convinced that I would never go back to teaching and research. I thought it was the best job in the world. I have never looked back,” said Johnson, who retires at the end of May as associate dean for Extension, a role she has held since 2015.

Spanning more than 35 years, her career journey with CAES and UGA Extension has included county-based and administrative roles including 4-H program development coordinator for UGA Extension’s Southwest District and Southwest District Extension director, overseeing programs in 41 counties.

Arch Smith, retired former Extension 4-H Leader, will serve as interim associate dean until Johnson’s successor is named.

For more on Laura Perry Johnson, visit

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