Scott N. Marshall, state veterinarian, was named Veterinarian of the Year by the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association at a ceremony last month.
Growing up on a small family farm in North Smithfield, Marshall has been around animals his whole life, including raising, training and racing horses. After high school, he attended the University of Rhode Island, graduating with a B.S. in animal science and went on to complete his doctorate in veterinary science from Tufts University. He holds more than 20 years experience in his field – most of which he served in his home state.
PBN: What are the most pressing issues you face as an ambassador to the state’s farmers, animal shelters, pet owners, etc.?
MARSHALL: As people are discovering, or rediscovering, farming they may be fairly unaware of animal health and regulatory issues that exist nowadays. Keeping farmers informed of the best ways to protect the health of their animals, and in turn their livelihood, is a constant challenge especially with the growing phenomenon of farmers markets and direct sales to the public.
A huge influx of pet animals, primarily dogs, coming into the state from Southern shelters where they purportedly have high rates of euthanasia [brings] tremendous potential for the importation of sick dogs, for the inhumane treatment of dogs and for people to commit acts of deception and fraud on adoptive parties.
PBN: According to the most recent Census of Agriculture, the number of Rhode Island farms has increased 42 percent from 2002. How has that increase affected your department?
MARSHALL: The growth of agriculture as a sector can only be viewed favorably by the Division of Agriculture. Unfortunately, the 42 percent increase in the number of Rhode Island farms has occurred at precisely the same time as there has been a decrease in the size of the workforce in the R.I. Division of Agriculture. The net result is that we had to weigh which services will benefit farmers most and whether there were other service providers who could pick up on the services that we discontinued.
PBN: According to the same census, women have become increasingly involved in the state’s agricultural industry. What insight can you share as to why?
MARSHALL: I really don’t have a factual explanation of why women are becoming increasingly involved. I can say that from my experience, women have always been heavily involved in agriculture. Most Rhode Island farms are family businesses and women are integral to the family and the business. The equine sector of agriculture is overwhelmingly dominated by women. Women [are] the majority of farm owners, farm managers, horse owners and trainers. So, from my perspective, women have always been heavily involved in agriculture. I guess the most recent census just supports and substantiates what we in the field have long known. •