Emery Castle's early formal education was in one room schools in rural Kansas. He attended rural high schools, and, with financial help from a scholarship, went to Kansas State University. He obtained bachelor and masters degrees from Kansas State with majors in agricultural economics. He was awarded the PhD by Iowa State University, and did post doctoral work at North Carolina State University.
Dr Castle came to Oregon State University as an assistant professor of agricultural economics in 1954 after holding positions at Kansas State University and the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. He was promoted to Professor at Oregon State in 1959. In 1962 he was visiting professor at Purdue University. In addition to teaching and research, he has held numerous administrative positions at Oregon State University including Dean of Faculty, Dean of the Graduate School, Head of Agricultural Economics, and Director of the Water Resources Research Institute. His public service has included appointment to various Boards and Commissions by five different Oregon Governors. He received a Distinguished Professor Award from Oregon State University in 1970.
He resigned from Oregon State in 1975 to become vice president, and then president, of the prestigious public policy institute, Resources for the Future (RFF) in Washington D. C. Under his leadership, RFF moved from being a ward of the Ford Foundation to a fully independent, endowed institution. He returned to Oregon State University in 1986 as the first Chair of its University Graduate Faculty of Economics. He became Professor Emeritus, Oregon State University in 1993. In 2002, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, Resources for the Future dedicated its public rose garden at the Resources and Conservation Center in Washington D. C. to him.
He became a Fellow, American Agricultural Economics Association in 1976. In 1977 he was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 1980 as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received a Distinguished Service Award from Oregon State University in 1980.
In 1997, Iowa State University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in recognition of his work in rural studies and public service. In 1970, OSU President James Jensen, appointed him with two other professors to a three person Goals Commission with responsibility to develop a strategic plan for OSU. In 1993, he was requested by OSU President John Byrne to recommend the placement of the Oregon State University Extension Service within the University. The report to President Byrne had significant influence on the University, as did the report of the three person Goals Commission appointed by President Jensen.
Dr Castle is senior author of a textbook that has been translated into six languages and has sold more than 100,000 copies. After coming to Oregon State in 1954, he did original research on water resource economics. He was one of a few economics scattered over the United States whose efforts resulted in resource economics becoming a respected specialization by time of the first Earth Day in 1970. Oregon State then became one of the first land grant universities to change the name of its Department of Agricultural Economics to the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Throughout his career he has worked cooperatively with engineers, biological scientists and other social scientists.
Since his return to OSU in 1986, his principal research focus has been in rural economics. In 1995 he received the Distinguished Service to Rural Life Award from the Rural Sociological Society. From 1987 to 1997 he was Chair, National Rural Studies Committee, a W.K. Kellogg Foundation funded program on service of higher education institutions to rural America. Several land grant universities, including Oregon State, have rural education, research and service programs that stemmed from, or were affected by, the National Rural Studies Committee.
In October, 2005 the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at Oregon State University hosted a three day symposium entitled Frontiers in Resource and Rural Economics, the two fields pioneered by Emery Castle. Scholars from over the United States, including many former students at Oregon State, reviewed existing literature and identified promising opportunities for future investigations. A book is forthcoming from the symposium proceedings.
In 2006 Oregon State University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in recognition of accomplishments as teacher, researcher, administrator and public policy analyst.