University of Tennessee Extension Appoints New Director for Central Region

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Chris Hicks to Begin Role January 17

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.— Chris Hicks, director and agricultural and natural resources agent with University of Tennessee Extension in Smith County, has been named as the new director for the UT Extension’s Central Region. The Central Region includes 31 counties in Middle Tennessee surrounding Nashville. It stretches between Robertson and Pickett counties along the Kentucky border and includes areas south of Nashville between Giles and Marion counties along the state borders with Alabama and Georgia.

“We are pleased to welcome Chris Hicks to his new role within UT Extension,” said Carrie Castille, senior vice chancellor and senior vice president of the UT Institute of Agriculture. “His excellent service to county clientele has been greatly appreciated, and now he will have the opportunity to support even more Tennesseans.” 

“Mr. Hicks’ strong experience and relationships with Tennessee’s farmers, partners, and communities will greatly benefit the region,” added Ashley Stokes, dean and director of UT Extension. “His leadership will help UT Extension across the Central Region continue to provide real life solutions. I am excited to see him collaborate with our regional Extension professionals and partners to strengthen our traditional programs as well as foster new areas.”

As director of UT Extension’s Central Region, Hicks will be responsible for providing leadership and guidance to county Extension directors as well as regional and county staff in the successful delivery of educational programs associated with 4-H youth development, family and consumer sciences, agricultural and natural resources and community economic development. He will also encourage and foster new and innovative programs that meet the needs of the diverse audience in the central region of Tennessee and serve as a liaison between UT Extension, Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension and county government officials relative to county Extension programs.

Hicks began his Extension career as the county director and 4-H and adult agriculture agent in Van Buren County, where he implemented innovative programs such as ATV safety, 4-H Wildlife Camp, and forestry and wildlife field days. He has served as the county director and adult agriculture agent in Smith County since 2014. During his time in Smith County, Hicks served on numerous local and statewide UT committees as well as a representative for agriculture and natural resources programs for the Tennessee State Fair Committee. He also worked to implement innovative programs through the Upper Cumberland Extension Team, has been a regular speaker at livestock and forage meetings and field days, and has built relationships with Extension agents and farmers throughout Middle Tennessee through the Cultivating Communities television program.

Even before his service with UT Extension in Smith County, Hicks was no stranger to rural Tennessee. He was raised on a beef, dairy and tobacco farm in Carthage, and he is a 2006 graduate of Tennessee Tech University, earning his B.S. in agribusiness. He earned his master’s degree in agricultural economics from UT Knoxville in 2007.

During his career, Hicks has received numerous honors and awards from UTIA including the Harley and Juanita Irwin Agriculture Economics Service Award, the Vernon and Ida Darter Award, and the Downen Leadership Award. In 2022, he was recognized by the National Association of County Agricultural Agents with their Distinguished Service Award.

As county director, Hicks recruited and hired an outstanding team that has developed outstanding programs in agriculture, family consumer sciences, and 4-H youth development. During his time in both Van Buren and Smith counties, UT Extension programs saw increased support from county government, donors and endowments. Hicks was also instrumental in the development of Lead 95 Team, a comprehensive training program designed for county Extension directors.

Hicks is excited to begin his new role. “I have tremendous respect and admiration for the agents, specialists and staff who serve our farmers, families and 4-H members in Middle Tennessee. I am committed to serving them in this role and am looking forward to being part of the Central Region Team,” he said. His appointment begins January 17, 2023. Jim Stewart, the former director of UT Extension’s Central Region, retired from the position in September 2022.

Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.

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Patricia McDaniels

UTIA Marketing and Communications



Chris Hicks, UT Extension