Ag Careers Profile: Agriculture & Natural Resources Extension Agent
Lindie Huffman’s mantra is “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care,” and building relationships is just one of this Jane-of-all-trade’s exceptional talents.
Lindie has been the Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent for Pendleton Co. for nearly five years, and she loves the flexibility and creativity needed to develop new programs. Traditionally, this has not been a career held by women, but about 25 percent of the ANR agents for Kentucky are currently female. That number is growing.
In addition to breaking stereotypes about who can hold the job, Lindie is working to break stereotypes about extension and diversify her programming to reach a new generation of clientele.
“We have such good information that changes peoples’ lives,” said Lindie.
The interesting thing, however, is that extension was not on Lindie’s radar for potential careers.
Lindie grew up in Grant Co. on a sixth-generation tobacco and beef cattle farm. She initially thought about agriculture law but earned a degree in Agriculture Education from the University of Kentucky with a minor in Animal Sciences and several credit hours in Plant and Soil Sciences and Agricultural Economics. Lindie also held several time-demanding jobs during her college career, such as student worker on UK’s vet science research farm, sales clerk with Bluegrass Stockyards, extension intern, NAILE intern, and student lab assistant for UK’s Meat Science Program.
While she loved developing lesson plans and new ways to teach agriculture concepts, it was a study abroad program to Scotland that changed her life.
“I visited Scotland with PhD rural economic geographers when I was a junior, and we were tasked to analyze and improve their local food systems,” she said. “I didn’t think I had the skills of a community developer, but I realized I was really good at building connections with the farmers. This experience built my self-confidence.”
Upon graduation in 2012, she earned her dream extension job in Pendleton Co., where agriculture enterprises had focused on beef, hay, tobacco, and grain production. Lindie was tasked, however, with serving a new crowd. Her first program was to expand the farmer’s market, which has grown from three vendors to 16.
Lindie said they also hold gardening classes and work with the Family and Consumer Science agent to hold “from the garden” cooking classes. While Lindie said that her primary job is developing programs based on her clients’ needs, helping them make the right connections to others in the community is her passion. Community development is a huge focus for the Cooperative Extension Service.
Lindie regularly gets calls that start, “I read on the Internet....” She recalls one conversation where a young woman asked if they had a honey extractor. Instead of telling her, “no,” Lindie encouraged her to get involved with the Northern Kentucky Beekeepers. Within two years, that young lady became the president of the association. The experience helped Lindie realize that more people were interested in beekeeping, so she developed a new program.
“We now keep a demonstration hive and had 53 people sign up for our #beecomigabeekeeper meeting.”
Lindie also enjoys working with farmers and getting her hands dirty. She has helped prune grape vines, work cattle, and tapped maple trees. Putting pride aside and working alongside the farmers is what she said has helped her on her journey to her profession.
“Working in agriculture gives you skills you can use in every job,” Lindie acknowledged.
It was quite evident in talking with Lindie, that she loves her job, and she encourages young people to follow their passion as well.
Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension may not be the right job for everyone, due to long hours and serving a diverse client base, but there is no doubt that our agriculture community would not be as successful without them.