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New ag educator knows way around extension office

Amy Van DeBrake is the new ag educator in Pierce County’s UW-Extension office. The new position was created in response to Agriculture Agent Greg Andrews’ appointment to a state liaison post. Photo by Bill Kirk.

The Pierce County UW-Extension office’s loss is the Pierce County UW-Extension office’s gain.

Although that seems like a contradiction, it’s true. Pierce Agriculture Agent Greg Andrews has been appointed as one of two ag program liaisons in the state, reducing the time Andrews can spend locally, so a new ag educator position is being funded to fill the gap.

Yet, the agent will still be available to the county approximately 65 percent of the time over his year-long arrangement with the state, meaning the occasions when he’s present, combined with the presence of the ag educator, totals more than a full-time extension staffer.

“He’ll be helping new hires get started,” said Pierce 4-H and Youth Agent Frank Ginther, who recently served in a similar capacity for the state, only with the 4-H program.

When Ginther was partially absent (liaisons travel in Wisconsin; Andrews is one of two, Ginther was one of four), a “backfill” position was also created here, he said Wednesday. And, the same as now, Amy Van DeBrake handled the duties when the regular job holder was missing.

“She has the people skills that we like to see,” Ginther said about why Van DeBrake was again chosen. He praised her self-initiative, too.

Moreover, the new educator is getting experienced with extension. Her previous two stints for Ginther (one was as summer assistant, the other as program assistant last fall) are on top of the responsibilities she’s assumed for Andrews since mid-May.

They’ve included helping with the county’s dairy breakfast (she enjoyed the custom heifer-raising aspect), being part of the county’s dairy promotion group and Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (she distributed door prizes and took on organizational roles), assisted at a cow/calf workshop at the Lunds’ farm (Pierce partnered with St. Croix County for this event), participated in a farm plot day and, this week, is to be at Farm Technology Days in Barron County.

“We’re going to have an ag land rolling display,” she said, explaining it will explore the pros and cons of a farm practice recently introduced.

For more please read the July 12 print version of the Herald. 

Bill Kirk

Bill Kirk was editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, from 1988 to February, 2015 and is now on staff as a reporter. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.

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