• September 22, 2019

County extension office overcomes staff shortages - Odessa American: Ector County

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County extension office overcomes staff shortages

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Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2019 3:00 pm

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has fully staffed their core team of agents in less than a year following organizational restructuring in Ector County and Midland County.

The two area extension offices combined positions in the spring to resolve staffing shortages caused by higher regional living costs. That decision is now paying off.

County extension office programming is led by four agents who cover agriculture and natural resources, 4-H, family and community health and horticulture.

District Extension Administrator Rebel Royall previously said residents in Ector County and Midland County were put at a disadvantage with agent vacancies.

The education agency works with the public to build programs that fulfill community needs, but the local extension office struggled to function while understaffed. Several agent positions were inconsistently filled for the last seven years prior to the change, which left some educational programs to crumble without steady guidance.

The interlocal agreement made between the two counties will become a model for comparable areas throughout the state that are experiencing financial setbacks if it proves to be successful over the long term.

Jeanette Castanon will be the final agent added to the team beginning next month.

She is originally from El Paso and graduated in May from New Mexico State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural biology with a focus in environmental biology.

Castanon said she is looking forward to breathing life into the agriculture industry and using programs to pique the interest of young people.

“I want to be for the youth what a lot of my mentors were for me, inspiring and ready to answer any questions,” she said.

County Extension Agent Steve Paz said Castanon will be working with programs like the Permian Basin Master Gardeners.

He said the new agent will shadow extension offices in El Paso and Dallas for a total of about two weeks to undergo training and glean inspiration from other existing programs before she dives into her responsibilities.

“My job is to bring horticulture and gardening to the public,” Castanon said. “It’s going to be up to me what kind of programs I want to put on to teach the public about horticulture and I hope to get some more ideas from shadowing others.”

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