05/05/14 — New Extension agent getting her feet wet

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New Extension agent getting her feet wet

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 5, 2014 1:46 PM

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Stefani Garbacik is Wayne County's new Extension Service livestock agent. Her first day on the job was Thursday.

Stefani Garbacik's first day on the job Thursday as Wayne County's new Extension Service livestock agent was a whirlwind of paperwork, learning the computer system and meeting people.

And she does not expect to slow down for some time as she settles into a post that has been vacant since last May.

"I am excited to be here and can't wait to get started doing things in the county," she said. "I guess my biggest thing is when I talk to the farmers and they ask me something that I don't know, and I have to find out and get back to them.

"Hopefully, I won't say that too often, where they start thinking, 'Oh, she doesn't know what she is talking about.'"

It's a process that all agents go through, said Extension Service Director Kevin Johnson.

"You can get an academic degree or two, but you still have a steep learning curve with some of the agriculture production," Johnson said. "It was a fear I had, too, because you know that you don't know it all. I still don't know it all. Every day I learn stuff, but there is a learning curve there, and it will come.

"We are going to be there to support her. She is going to spend some time with some other agents, just to get a feel. She will probably spend some time with specialists in Raleigh. It is different. Extension work is very hands on. You are passing on information, but it is a little different than the academic world."

Ms. Garbacik also will be assuming the 4-H youth livestock duties.

"A lot of it is going to be talking to farmers and figuring out what their problems are, what kind of training they might want to see, what kind of programs, finding specialists, or if I know something about it, setting up workshops, programs that will help them," she said. "Plus, there is lot of youth livestock, the judging and shows and stuff like that. That will be a big portion of it."

There had been concerns by local officials over the past year that state budget constraints would leave the job unfilled.

"That wasn't because the need didn't exist," Johnson said. "It was just financial. I want to thank the commissioners and the county manager for making that happen. It (the livestock agent job) is extremely important. Agriculture is the No. 1 industry (in Wayne County).

"Well, you break agriculture down, livestock and poultry, even take poultry out, livestock is the No. 1 commodity. If you wanted to break it down into commodities -- swine, cattle and the other animals that are there it is the No. 1 part of agriculture. She will be serving that community, meeting the needs of those producers."

There is a transition period that will take some time, Johnson said.

"She will be on the ground in a couple of weeks," Johnson said. "But to really get to know everybody it will take a year or two to make that happen. There are so many things that can be done. We have our youth component, but you can always make improvements.

"The other big component is working with our large producers. That could include environmental aspects, keeping up with all of the nutrient management waste plans. Forage is always a big deal."

Ms. Garbacik grew up in the Fayetteville area, where her parents served in the Army. She is graduate of N.C. State University with a bachelor's degree in animal science. She earned a master's degree in animal science with a concentration in reproduction from the University of Kentucky.

Ms. Garbacik started off wanting to be a veterinarian before deciding that it wasn't for her.

"I started off going to State wanting to be a large animal vet, cows and horses," she said. "I kind of got switched around and starting doing research with one of the professors at State as an undergrad and kind of went from there and decided to get a master's.

"So I started looking for other jobs that I could do with an animal science degree and stumbled across Extension. When I went to get my master's that was kind of my ending goal. Once I finished my master's, I was going to try to find an Extension job hopefully in North Carolina because that is where my parents still are."

Ms. Garbacik said she did not really know what the Extension Service's role was until she went to State even though she had been in a 4-H horse club in high school.

"This is definitely the kind of job I want to be in. I like the area. I hope I can help the farmers and they feel comfortable telling me what their problems are and I can go about finding ways to help them. I think it is going to be exciting."