Extension Agents are knowledgeable with passion to serve

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 9, 2015

IN THE FIELD: Billy Maily, left, Wildlife Fisheries and Aquacultures Extension Associate, Anna McCain, ANR-Extension Agent and pond owner Milton Jones discuss fish population and  pond management. (Wayne Stroupe/For The Vicksburg Post)

IN THE FIELD: Billy Maily, left, Wildlife Fisheries and Aquacultures Extension Associate, Anna McCain, ANR-Extension Agent and pond owner Milton Jones discuss fish population and pond management. (Wayne Stroupe/For The Vicksburg Post)

The Cooperative Extension Service has been around for 100 years providing scientific, research-based agricultural information. Life was different when it started in 1914 when over half of the country lived in a rural setting. A successful partnership created between the United States Department of Agriculture and land grant universities; it provides reliable information to the public in every state.

For many years the community contact was the county agent who was well versed in all things farming-related. That terminology has expanded to encompass much more according to Anna McCain, whose title is Agricultural and Natural Resources-Extension Agent for Warren County.

“My responsibilities are broad. I’m here to help with whatever the public needs “McCain explained. The modern Extension Service according to extension.org relates to community, disaster issues, energy, family issues, farm, health and nutrition, lawn and garden, pest management and youth. If she cannot answer a question in one of these areas, she knows a specialist who can.

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McCain grew up in rural Mississippi where agriculture and nature were always a part of her life.

“As a teenager, I began working for Delta and Pine Land Company, where I first became interested in plant life and research.” This led to a horticulture degree at Mississippi State University.

There she gained not only classroom knowledge but technical experience as a student worker maintaining landscape beds and assisting in research projects for Dr. Richard Harkness. She only lacks defending her thesis to complete a master’s degree in horticulture.

Responding to change has kept the Extension Service viable throughout its history. During the Great Depression, county agents helped farmers set up buying and selling cooperatives. During both World Wars, seeds, tools and expertise helped thousands set up Victory gardens which produced almost half of the vegetables grown in the United States at that critical time. Extension information and instruction was also critical for the women who cooked and preserved the harvest. While farming issues dominated the early Extension Service, today the focus is quality of life according to McCain.

4-H was developed to give children hands-on learning experiences that were not part of their classroom curriculum but were necessary for future farmers and cattlemen.

This program has adapted over the years as more families moved into urban settings. Participants now learn various skills needed to succeed in our modern technological world as well as the more traditional aspects of raising animals and plants in rural areas. McCain coordinates the 4-H program as well as the Master Gardeners, adult volunteers who serve as an outreach of the Extension Service answering gardening questions, giving programs and working on various garden related projects.

McCain is young and energetic and very interested in serving our community.

“As I learn about what Vicksburgers are interested in, I will be developing programs and be more pro-active.” Her first community program “Germinate Plans, Grow You Garden” is scheduled for Thursday, August 13 at 6 PM at the Extension office at 1100-C Grove Street. McCain will help gardeners understand why they should plan now for next year’s spring flower and vegetable garden.

Hint: soil condition can make a huge difference in a garden’s success. Future topics include Fall Annuals on September 10 and Fall Pruning on November 14. All are free and open to the public.

Over 75 percent of the calls that come into the Warren County Extension office relate to ornamental plants in home gardens and someone with the horticulture education that McCain possesses is a great resource for all of us. She wants community input and ideas and is willing to provide programs on topics you want hear. Stop by and meet her. Attend her programs and learn from her. We are lucky to have her.

Miriam Jabour, a Master Gardener and Master Flower Show judge, has been active in the Openwood Plantation Garden Club for over 35 years. Write to her at 1114 Windy Lake Drive, Vicksburg MS 39183.