Extension wants to add agriculture educator

(Posted Dec. 12, 2014)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

The Madison County Office of the Ohio State University Extension wants to add an agriculture and natural resources educator to its staff.

On Dec. 8, Janet Wasko Myers, county Extension director, presented the Madison County commissioners with a budget proposal for 2015. In it, she asks for $40,000 to reinstate the ag educator position. The office has been without an ag educator for several years due to budget cuts.

Currently, Myers serves as the Extension’s only educator, focusing on 4-H youth development. Arlene Duffey, the office associate, is the only other paid staff member.

“We get calls,” Myers said, referring to questions from area residents regarding agriculture. “We have to refer them to an Extension expert online.”

She said the community would be better served by someone familiar with Madison County when it comes to answering specific questions about topics such as local cash rents, farmland prices and watersheds.

Myers said an ag/natural resources educator could provide local programming on fertilizer certification, the Farm Bill, crop production, financial management, ag business opportunities, environmental quality, food safety, land use, zoning and ag profitability, as well as support the Master Gardeners.

She also envisions the ag/natural resources educator collaborating with 4-H programs, including quality assurance, livestock clinics, 4-H camp, 4-H advisor training, school programs, and learning opportunities at the fair.

“The idea of adding an ag educator is not to make my workload easier. It’s to allow us to go out and do more programming,” Myers said.

Commissioner Paul Gross said he appreciates what the Extension office already provides and understands the value of the additional programming Myers is proposing, but said she might be asking for too big a bump in her budget.

As a smaller step that shares resources, he suggested the idea of creating a shared position between the Extension and the Madison Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). The SWCD’s 2015 budget proposal asks for funding for an additional employee, too, with some duties similar to those Myers wants in an ag/natural resources educator.

Myers said she is open to talking to SWCD, but still believes Extension needs its own second full-time educator.

In addition to the ag/natural resources educator position, Myers’ budget proposal asks for more money to run the office. For each of the past three years, the Extension has received $89,880 in county funds. That covers the 4-H educator position and office associate position, leaving about $5,000 a year to run the office. To help make the $5,000 stretch, Myers said she has been using her own money to pay for her travel expenses and cleans the office herself.

The total amount she requested from the county for 2015 is $142,555—most of which would cover the 4-H educator, ag educator and office associate costs. The remaining $16,110 would be for office supplies, postage, communications, equipment maintenance, travel, lawn care, cleaning and post office box expenses.

The commissioners are considering this and budget proposals for 2015 from all other departments and entities that receive county funds.

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