New agents host Extension Office open house
Havre Daily News/Lindsay Brown
Extension Agents Nicole Gray, left, and Lee Ann Larson, pose for a photo in the Montana State University Hill County Extension Office last week.
Two new faces are in the Montana State University Hill County Extension Office, and they are inviting people to come in and meet them during an open house Friday, Nov. 9.
Agricultural Extension Agent Nicole Gray said people don't have to wait for the open house, though, to meet her and Family and Consumer Science Extension Agent Lee Ann Larson.
"They can come in any time they would like, " Gray said.
Gray is a very recent addition to the Hill County office. She came to start working in Havre two weeks ago, Oct. 15.
Larson has been in the office a bit longer. She started in Hill County April 2.
Both agents are taking on their first jobs as MSU extension agents with the Hill County positions.
Gray graduated from MSU with a degree in animal science this spring, after a youth involved in agriculture starting at her father's small farm and ranch near Highwood.
"I was involved at a very young age, I guess you would say. Weed control, " Gray said.
As she got older, she became more involved in the cattle side of the operation and helping in more areas like harvesting and calving. She continued to work in farming and ranching as she went through college, Gray added.
She said she was inspired to become an extension agent in part through her work with Extension Agent Judy Wargo, with whom she worked closely as a youth.
"I just kind of realized the opportunities for an extension agent, another way to work in agriculture and working a lot with producers, " Gray said. "Definitely one of my passions is agriculture, and education, and it's just kind of combining the two. "
She said her responsibilities will center on the agricultural side, crops and livestock. A focus right now is on learning more and providing information about the Roundup-resistant kochia recently discovered on the Hi-Line.
But that is just one example of her job, she added.
"Anything ranging from identifying insects to handing out information on fall grazing prices — so a wide variety, " Gray said.
Larson said her focus is on family-oriented topics, also with a wide range of issues covering a spectrum from food safety and nutrition to estate planning. One program offered now, "Strong Women, " helps aging women maintain muscle mass through weight lifting and low-impact exercising.
"So we have a lot of programs that deal with the family and health, just about anything that's family-oriented, " she said.
Larson also is new to extension. After raising her children essentially as a stay-at-home mom while working some farm acres near Helena with her husband, Ed, for 22 years, she decided to go back to college, she said. She graduated from MSU last December with a degree in agricultural education with an emphasis in animal science.
Larson added that her husband is originally from eastern Montana and is pleased to be back in the region closer to the farming he knew growing up.
Right now, the two agents are working to get this January's Cabin Fever program set — they said it will be scaled back a bit this year from previous offerings, although they hope to build it back quickly.
Larson said the community has been very welcoming and helpful, including her working on her first Hill County 4-H fair during the 2012 Great Northern Fair.
The volunteers and organizers of Hill County 4-H were very professional and effective during the fair, Larson added.
"They made my job look easy, " she said.
The two agents also complimented the other members of the extension office staff, Pam Johnson and Emi Smith, for making the transition much easier.
Gray said the staff members of the Northern Agricultural Research Center also are helping break her in to the new area and her new duties.
The open house is scheduled from 2 to 4 p. m. Friday, Nov. 9, at the extension office in the bottom level of the Hill County Courthouse.
Gray also invited anyone to come in to meet and visit them any time the office is open, from 8 a. m. to 5 p. m. Monday through Friday.