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New extension agents headed to Basin
By HOLLY OWENS H&N Staff Writer, 3/25/06

   An Oregon State University Extension Service agreement will bring three new agents to Klamath County, placing a new focus on agriculture programs and assuring the continuation of its popular Master Gardener’s program.
   The Klamath County Extension Service will operate with four agents by the end of the year.
   The extension service now has three agents, which is a reduction from five following recent retirements.
   And more changes are ahead when row crop agent Kerry Locke retires in June and staff chair Ron Hathaway follows in December.
   Overall organization at the extension will change, allowing for some overlap in agent responsibilities.
   “What we’re really planning is trying to cover four with three,” Hathaway said.
   Hathaway hopes the first agent position will be filled soon in order to allow some overlap time before Locke retires in June.
   The first new agent hired will be in charge of the Master Gardener program and will focus on field crop production, soil management, irrigation and farm management.
   The second agent will fill the role of research and extension service administrator, replacing Hathaway.
   The agent will be an economist who can focus on rural economics, agricultural market resource economics, alternative energy and bio fuel, water management and niche marketing.
   “We can grow lots and lots of things here,” Hathaway said. “But marketing is the key to it and what you can market it for. So you’re not just selling potatoes, you’re selling Basin fresh potatoes.”
   The extension administrator also will need to be able to build bridges between the community and Oregon State University, Hathaway said.
   “Someone who would be able to lead more coordinated efforts with economic analysis of the area,” he said.
   “Work with the local elected officials, business leaders — try to get this sort of tie, or connection to OSU a little stronger.
   “This is going to be the leadership position for the next 10 or 20 years.”
   The third agent should be hired by December, Hathaway said. That agent will focus on livestock, natural resources, water quality and quantity, forages, marketing and farm management.
   The hiring of three new agents is welcome news, but ultimately, Hathaway says, the goal is to return the staffing level to five agents.
   The need to reinstate a fifth agent will gain importance as new agricultural issues develop in the Basin, he said.
   “We’re going to see a tremendous growth. We’ve got all of this new population to deal with and then we’re going to have all these pressures between urban and rural,” Hathaway said.
   “We’re now aware, more than we want to be, what the growth potential of Klamath is going to be.”



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