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Extension Agent: AgriLife Extension custom-designs programs to different areas of state

By By Erika Bochat
Jan. 17, 2012 at midnight
Updated Jan. 16, 2012 at 7:17 p.m.

Erika Bochat

I began my experience with extension when I joined the Edinburg 4-H Club in Hidalgo County more than 30 years ago and continued that work and experience through an extension minority internship in Jefferson County, while attending Lamar University in Beaumont.

I was as excited then, as I am now to be connected to a vast network of 250 county extension offices and some 900 professional educators, making AgriLife Extension educational programs available to every resident in every Texas county.

But because extension educators are well-aware that a program offered in Dallas might not be relevant in the Rio Grande Valley, AgriLife Extension custom-designs its programs to different areas of the state.

We, as county extension agents, significantly depend on the residents of the county for input in identifying critical needs in the communities where we live, work and play by developing and offering educational programs that contribute to meeting those needs.

The mission of AgriLife Extension is a seemingly simple one: improving the lives of people, businesses and communities across Texas and beyond through high-quality, relevant education.

My first position as a county extension agent-home economics (the name we used into the early 1990s) was in Camp and Franklin counties, where I also worked cooperatively with the agriculture agent with the 4-H program.

We had chickens and dairy cattle and the challenge was growing a stronger 4-H program and starting extension homemakers (again, the name we used for extension education associations) clubs.

My personal challenge in those two counties was having 4-H'ers compete against each other in contests on the district and state level. In Jasper County, we had pine trees, mayhaws and too many teenage mothers.

Thankfully, the 4-H program was strong and the extension homemakers clubs were active and lively.

By the time I moved to Galveston County as the county extension agent-4-H and youth development, I fully understood that carrying out the mission of AgriLife Extension can be a massive undertaking, and I was thankful there were a number of agents in the office and a huge Master Gardener program. I counted it all as great then that I worked with other agents who were committed to the same goal.

Through the programs, each agent provides, together as a team or individually, with the assistance and support of Texas A&M System educators and specialists, Texans are better prepared to:

Eat well, stay healthy, manage money and raise their children to be successful adults.

Efficiently help themselves through preventing problems and using tools for economic stability and security.

Improve stewardship of the environment and of the state's natural resources.

Today's AgriLife Extension is known for its leadership, dedication, expertise, responsiveness and trustworthiness. Texans turn to AgriLife Extension for solutions, and its agents and specialists respond not only with answers, but with a significant return on investment to boost the Texas economy.

I am excited to again be a part of extension in Victoria County as we continue to strengthen and enrich families through education and I look forward to the work ahead.

Erika Bochat is a Victoria County extension agent-family and consumer sciences.

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