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Living the AgriLife in Williamson County

Oped by Commissioner Cook

  • 17 May 2018
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 3294
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Commissioner Cook is attending her first meeting of the Williamson County AgriLife Leadership Advisory Board  in Georgetown.

Many of you might remember using the term County Extension Office before. According to Texas A&M University, AgriLife was known as the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, established in 1915, which later became Texas Cooperative Extension.

The name Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service was adopted on Jan. 1, 2008, because according to Stevens, the director wanted to restore the word agriculture in the name since everything this organization does involves some aspect of agriculture.

In Wilco, we have, in addition to Stevens, four other AgriLife agents who assist young people, homemakers, farmers, ranchers and home gardeners, just to mention a few.

The other agents and their departments are: Tyler Coufal, Agriculture; Jared Alewine, Natural Resources; Cassie Ferguson, 4-H/Youth Development; and Kate Whitney, Horticulture. Each of these folks relies on the support and guidance from the Williamson County AgriLife Leadership Advisory Board along with research from Texas A&M.

The Board consists of 10 members that include county representatives and community volunteers. There are openings for volunteers, so shine your boots and dust off your cowboy hats and apply if you think you qualify. Or just come as you are. To apply, please contact the Extension Office.

As a former master gardener in Colorado, I couldn’t turn down an invitation to become a member of this Board. I became aware of A&M’s impressive agricultural programs while living in Colorado where master gardeners receive assistance and information from AgriLife and other universities.

Master gardeners are local volunteers with over 50 hours of horticulture training in areas like lawn care, vegetable and flower gardening, entomology, disease and weed management, and everything you can think of related to gardening.

In Wilco, master gardeners hold regular meetings that the public can attend, offering advice and assistance. We also have certified arborists who identify and help with diseases like oak wilt, while teaching proper tree pruning and overall maintenance.

Have you tried to grow backyard tomatoes, squash or strawberries in Central Texas and failed? Now you have a chance to turn your thumb green. Whitney, our horticulturist, can guide you or you can visit the website listed below for information on a successful home garden.

AgriLife agents and volunteers don’t just sit in air-conditioned offices answering questions on emails or phones. They travel around the county educating people about issues like agricultural soil improvement, pests, brush and cactus control, commercial pesticide training, and proper care and nutrition for farm and ranch animals.

They also teach farmers and ranchers how to identify weeds toxic to livestock, water conservation techniques and the latest technology to aid in crop production. While Alewine fields questions and offers help for landowners with 50 or fewer acres, Coufal works with landowners ranching or farming larger acreages.

Coufal is currently working with our county emergency management team to develop an Agricultural Disaster Plan. During flooding from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area last year, volunteers like Alewine rescued livestock, showing the need for a comprehensive plan for regional evacuations of livestock.

According to Texas Ag Facts, this state has more farms and ranches than any other state, with 248,000 covering more than 130 million acres. Most Texas farms and ranches are family farms, partnerships or family-held cooperatives.

The state’s food and fiber system encompasses production, processing and marketing of agricultural and natural resource products. Examples include energy purchases, fertilizer production, food processing and manufacturing, transportation, wholesale and retail distribution of products, and restaurants.

All economic activities that link the production of plant and animal fibers and hides to fabric, clothing and footwear comprise this system, which contributed $135.5 billion, or approximately 8.5 percent, to the state’s total GDP of $1.60 trillion in 2014. (Latest figures available)

Local AgriLife programs also sponsor 4-H Youth Development Programs with 600,000 participants statewide who learn leadership, citizenship and life skills. These youngsters participate in a range of competitions like raising show animals, fashion design, food and nutrition, shooting and archery.

I met two of these 4-H youngsters at the cooking school, where they helped with preparation and cleanup! I think every teen preparing to leave home for college should attend.

For more information on any AgriLife program—I’ve covered only a few—or the Leadership Advisory Board, please visit https://williamson.agrilife.org/ or call 512-943-3300.

I I also encourage you to attend the free Family Farm Fest’s Path to The Plate (this year’s theme) on June 30, at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Posse Arena in Georgetown from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Please check the above website for more information that will be forthcoming.

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