Ag committee recaps 2016, Bell announces plans to retire
Thursday morning, the Dyer County Agriculture Committee convened at the UT/TSU Extension Office, to discuss updates including the recently announced retirement of UT/TSU Extension Director Beth Bell, as well as a presentation from TSU Agent and CRD [Community Resource Development] staff member William Taylor.
Bell, who has dedicated her time and talent to the extension office for the past 38 years, has officially announced plans to retire on April 30, 2017. UT Extension Regional Director Richard Powell says he anticipates the position of Family/ Consumer Science and County Director to be filled by June 1, and a search committee is currently being put together to aid in the evaluation of qualified applicants to fill the soon-to-be vacant position.
Members of the committee made a unanimous motion to approve Judy Long as a member of the search committee (Long abstained from vote).
According to Powell, the position will require a Masterís Degree in Family and Consumer Science, or a related field. Applicants will have 30 days in which to apply.
Bell thanked everyone on the committee for their support.
Moving on, Taylor announced some of the highlights from the Community Resource Development program, including the Summer Feeding Program and After School Program, which currently employees 72 individuals, generating $89,000 in jobs in Dyer County. In addition, CRD houses roughly 2,000 volunteers donated 3,633 hours of volunteer work in 2016 alone. Also during 2016, the program reportedly generated $125,000 for the local economy, and provided $14,000 in college scholarships for students attending both county and city high schools.
Taylor stated the 2016 Summer Feeding Program was successful in providing 25,000 lunches and $12,000 in breakfast plates.
Taylor also illustrated the success of four community gardens in Dyer County, which are made possible through grant funds of the TIDES Foundation and NAACP. In 2016, TIDES and NAACP donated a total of $7,500 toward the Community Gardens Program. Collectively, the gardens produced 15,594 lbs. of produce, providing an offset grocery cost of $77,970 to local families.
A fifth garden was also established at the Dyer County Jailís Re-entry Program, where program inmates worked through the spring, summer, and fall months to produce over 20,000 lbs. of vegetables, which were used to feed themselves, as well as inmates of the Dyer County Jail. Taylor provided classes for Re-entry participants designed to educate them on ag fundamentals of pesticides, growing seasons, watering levels, fertilizers, and more. Taylor said the program was a vast success.
Also highlighted in the presentation was the Master Gardenerís Program. Taylor said Master Gardeners contributed 3,230 volunteer hours in 2016, a value to the community totaling $67,893.
In closing, Taylor discussed the Dyer County 4H program, which engages roughly 1,500 youth in monthly educational programs in city, county, private, and home schools in 4th-12th grades.
In 2016, 4H students investigated cells using taste and smell, and also held a mock presidential election. Through the Junior Livestock Association, 125 Dyer County youth raised funds for livestock expenses, building herds, and saving for college. Youth also were successful in raising $78,672.