New hires bring hopes of renewed activity at county extension office

New educators for agriculture, 4-H were hired in February after those positions were open for about 8 months

ARDMORE – Danielle Wells can breathe a sigh of relief when she is asked what services are offered through the OSU Extension Office in Carter County, because up until just a few weeks ago she was responsible for it all.

“It makes it so much better. We can offer so much more having a full staff,” Wells said in February while sitting next to one of two new educators recently hired by the office.

The extension office through Oklahoma State University is an educational resource available in all 77 counties across the state. While traditionally known for programs and information on agriculture and natural resources, extension offices have long been resources for residents from all walks of life.

Wells is the county’s OSU Extension Office educator for family and consumer sciences and also serves as the office’s interim director. Since early last summer, she had also been overseeing nearly every other aspect of the office’s educational programs that she could after the departure of two fellow educators.

That changed this February with two new hires.

Samantha Streib will come from Texas to take over as the 4-H educator and coordinate with programs at schools across the county. Stephanie Smith has moved from northern Virginia to become the office’s newest agriculture educator and hopes to take up the reins of existing ag programs — and potentially adding more.

“I was trying to come up with ideas for programs…especially by the summer,” Smith said. “It seems like this community is really excited about participating. Part of that is 4-H, which I’ll get to help with, and then the other part is also more adult-centered.”

Smith said her background is in equine science and management and she also studied animal and soil sciences at the University of Kentucky. She admits the culture in southern Oklahoma is slightly different from her time back east but seems eager to expand her knowledge.

Stephanie Smith and Danielle Wells speak to
Carter Observer

“The beef/cattle industry is more prominent here than where I grew up, so I’m definitely interested in going to the (Carter County Cattlemen’s Association) meetings and getting to know those producers and what I can do to help them,” she said.

The hiring of 4-H and agriculture educators is a welcome addition for the ag communities across Carter County, but the relief for Wells means getting back to other aspects of the extension office like her consumer science and co-parenting courses.

Co-parenting courses are often ordered by judges for divorcing couples with children, according to the OSU Extension office website, with exceptions made for instances of abuse or other circumstances. Wells said that she hopes to get more parents back in the classroom despite the classes being offered virtually.

“My numbers went really down because they’re offering it online, and I don’t think parents get the full effect of it online because you can’t really ask questions,” Wells said.

Along with the programs, services and even groups through the ag, 4-H and FCS educators, the extension office also provides nutrition classes for young people and adults through schools, senior centers and the local food bank. Classes and resources offered by a Community Nutrition Education Programs assistant not only help individuals and families cook healthy meals, but Wells said they can also help figure out how to do it on a limited budget.

Wells said that personnel is still needed in her office even with the addition of two educators. A bilingual position is still open, another position is expected to become open soon, and she said group volunteers are always welcome.

Classes on food preservation, canning and beginner sewing will also continue, according to Wells. During a February interview, Wells and Smith both also showed off new incubators they are testing before rolling them out to area schools so students can watch chicks hatch from eggs.

Wells said interest from area teachers in that annual program has ballooned in recent years. For Smith, it is a sign of how necessary the OSU Extension Office is for Carter County.

“It sounds like they’ll really benefit from having this position filled because we’ll be able to do more things in the county,” Smith said.