01/30/06 — Two new agents join Extension Service

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Two new agents join Extension Service

By Turner Walston
Published in News on January 30, 2006 1:52 PM

The Wayne County office of North Carolina Cooperative Extension has added new faces to its roster.

New agents Jessica Hyatt and Mandy Barnes began working earlier this month.

Ms. Hyatt, 26, is the new extension agent in horticulture, or garden plants. Mrs. Barnes, 36, is the county's new 4-H agent.

A native of Mitchell County, Ms. Hyatt comes to Wayne County after receiving her bachelor's degree in horticultural science from North Carolina State University, and a master's degree in plant soil science from the University of Kentucky.

Extension agents coordinate educational programs on the local level, in cooperation with NCSU, to strengthen the community's relationship with agriculture.

"One big thing is answering people's horticulture questions," Ms. Hyatt says of her position. So far, clients' questions have ranged from pecans to pruning to soil testing.

Ms. Hyatt is also getting oriented to the Master Gardener volunteer program. These volunteers are trained through certification classes and then provide assistance with community projects through the extension service.

During the Master Gardener plant clinic, which runs from March through September, clients bring in samples to ask questions of the volunteers.

Ms. Hyatt says her family's work in the garden steered her toward horticulture. "I was always interested in it because of my grandparents," she says. "There was always something around." She says experience on a high school horticulture judging team led her to major in the science.

Ms. Hyatt's work at the extension office will also delve into production horticulture, including sweet potatoes, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Mrs. Barnes, from Kenly, received her degree in middle grades education at NCSU. She is currently working on a master's degree in community counseling from Campbell University.

Mrs. Barnes taught middle school for 12 years, and spent time as a school counselor. After years of working with 4-H in Johnston County, Mrs. Barnes said she is excited to turn her after-work passion into a career.

"I knew if I ever left education, it would be for extension," she said.

Mrs. Barnes said the transition from the classroom to 4-H programs has been seamless.

"I'm able to kind of step back and see what a teacher needs," she said. "With 4-H being so large in Wayne County, there's a lot of stuff already programmed."

She added that she will spend the first few months training and meeting 4-H'ers and advisers.

Joining the extension office in the middle of a school year means 4-H programs are well under way, she said.

"Everything's in full swing. It's like a conveyor belt. It's running, and I've got to step on here."

Mrs. Barnes said her initial focus will be on strengthening existing programs.

Extension Director Howard Scott said he is excited Ms. Hyatt and Mrs. Barnes are joining the Wayne County staff, which is already a close-knit group, he added.

"We now have seven agents on staff. I'm extremely pleased that we have these two agents. Both of them have great work ethics, and an ability to relate to other people."

Scott said he hopes the new agents will add a different perspective to their departments.

"We don't always have to do it like we've always done it. They will put their stamp on the program."

Ms. Hyatt said she has enjoyed getting acclimated to Wayne County.

"I like that it's a balance," she says. "It's a rural county, but it's growing. There's a little bit of everything in the county."

Mrs. Barnes agreed. "There is a mix here," she said. "There are people in different areas of interest. More challenges, more areas to help. You've got a little bit of it all."