On Jan. 13, Melvin Atkinson began his new role as director of the Texas 4-H Conference Center on Lake Brownwood.

The Texas 4-H Conference Center, owned by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, is a 78-acre conference and retreat center. It hosts a variety of summer youth camps and, during the remainder of the year, is available for corporate meetings, team building workshops, family and class reunions and other gatherings.

Melvin Atkinson is the new director for the Texas 4-H Conference Center in Brownwood
Melvin Atkinson is the new director for the Texas 4-H Conference Center at Lake Brownwood. The center is owned by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, which also administers the Texas 4-H program. (Courtesy photo)

Atkinson has more than 30 years of experience implementing programs and special projects including locally driven initiatives, providing youth development programs and management of nonprofit organizations, said Courtney Dodd, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension associate director for health, youth and families and statewide 4-H Youth Development Program leader.

“Melvin has held different important positions with the city of Virginia Beach and also has experience as an agriculture and natural resources agent for Virginia Cooperative Extension,” Dodd said. “With his wealth of experience in both extension and the administration of various programs related to agriculture, natural resources and youth development, I am confident the Texas 4-H Conference Center has a bright future with him as director.”

4-H conference center
The Texas A&M 4-H Conference Center is spread out over 78 acres adjacent to Lake Brownwood. It hosts numerous 4-H camps as well as retreats, meetings, conferences and other gatherings. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

Before joining the center as its new director, Atkinson served as executive director of the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Airfield 4-H Center in Wakefield, Virginia. There he worked directly with the state 4-H office and Southeast 4-H Educational Center Board to establish and implement center activities. His duties included staff supervision and directing day-to-day center operations and programs as well as overseeing various program development and fundraising efforts. In this role, he worked as a liaison with various localities, state agencies, nonprofit organizations, foundations, corporations and donors. 

As community coordinator for the City of Virginia Beach from 2002-2013, Atkinson administered all rural and agricultural programs within the city as well as managing the Virginia Beach Farmers Market and Y Not Wednesday Market. He supervised professional and farmers market staff, including contracted employees and volunteers, in his work as a liaison between the rural agricultural community and elected officials. He also worked with agricultural officials and city leaders on issues relating to the agriculture industry and reviewed the development of ordinances and plans related to agriculturally zoned land. 

While Agricultural Reserve Program coordinator for the City of Virginia Beach from 1996-2002, Atkinson managed a $4 million program to preserve the rural character of the southern portion of Virginia Beach. His duties included reviewing development plans on property-zoned agriculture within the city as well as working with the city attorney and city council to approve applications and coordinate appraisals, surveys and other contracted support.

Prior to his work for the city of Virginia Beach, Atkinson was district director for the Virginia Dare Soil and Water Conservation District for Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, where he provided long-range planning of conservation and educational programs within the district.  

Atkinson also served as an agriculture and natural resources agent for the Virginia Cooperative Extension. His duties included implementing educational programs in agronomic and commercial vegetable crop production and assisting with agribusiness development in the City of Virginia Beach. He coordinated farm tours to demonstrate the latest technology and production methods and provided educational outreach and technical assistance to area producers.

He is a member of numerous professional organizations, including the International Association of Conference Center Administrators, Virginia Association of 4-H Centers, American Camping Association, National Association of Extension 4-H Agents, Virginia Extension Service Association, National Association of Agricultural Extension Agents and several Virginia-based chambers of commerce. He is also a member of the Farmers Market Coalition, National Association of Produce Market Managers, Virginia Farmers Direct Marketing Association and the North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association.

“Working with the Texas 4-H Conference Center staff and the Texas 4-H office, we will look for ways to expand the camping program in Texas and try to reach more youth and introduce them to the variety of wonderful opportunities 4-H provides,” Atkinson said. “Having an amazing center like the one in Texas is a tremendous advantage for youth and volunteers across the state and allows them to encourage and uplift one another as they learn by doing through service to others.” 


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