Having grown up on a beef cattle farm raising Black Angus, Kyla-Jo Farmer is well suited for the role of the 4-H Youth Development Agent at the Swain County Cooperative Extension Office.
“It’s all I know and all I wanted to do,” Farmer said of her choice to pursue a career in the agricultural field.
Farmer has an obvious passion for farm life. “I grew up in a feed business. I grew up alongside the farmers in the community, and it sparked my interest in Ag, and working with farmers that led me to be involved with FFA and 4-H when I was younger,” she shared. “I have a strong passion to help the kids and teach them about agriculture and make them better citizens of the community.”
She started her job as the new 4-H agent for Swain County last Monday. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science from University of Tennessee with a dual degree in Animal Science and Leadership. Upon graduating, she worked at UT for just over three years.
“It’s good to be back to my home roots,” she said on the return to Western North Carolina. She is still commuting from Haywood County right now, and said she has hopes to get her own cattle before too long.
“I was excited and blessed with the opportunity where I can help teach, serve, and educate the public about our current agriculture needs and practices,” she said.
By definition, 4-H is designed to help young people gain their full potential through being engaged in hands on programs. Agriculture is at its roots, and Farmer hopes her passion for agriculture will help youth interest in the program.
“I think it’s very important to keep those roots, build on them, and create the future agriculture masters of this county and keep them strongly involved in what’s going on today and the issues we face with agriculture products and keep them in the know to help better their future,” Farmer said.
It’s not just about getting your hands in the dirt or raising animals, it includes life skills and civic engagement. Some current 4-H programs in Swain County include a Sweet Treats Holiday Bake-Off for kids, a 4-H Winter Penpal Program and a Holiday Card Art Contest. In October, the club hosted a Livestock Halloween Photo Contest.
As the 4-H agent, Farmer will also work with the schools in the county with STEM programming and after school clubs.
Like most things, 4-H has had to adapt this year to the challenges of the current coronavirus pandemic and is hosting all of its programming virtually right now.
“I think our biggest challenge is not being able to meet face-to-face and introduce myself,” Farmer said. “I think the county office and dominant volunteers have done a good job maintaining the program and offering virtual options to keep the kids involved and keep the momentum going.
“We’ll keep offering virtual programs, and hopefully, 2021 will look different and we can meet in person,” she added.
The extension office is also pleased about what she will bring to the program.
“We are really excited about our new Swain Extension 4H Agent Kyla-Jo Farmer joining our Swain Extension Team because she is bringing a lot of experience and enthusiasm to traditional 4H programming like the current Swain 4H Livestock Club, while also leading volunteers in 4H Shooting Sports and other youth development efforts in the county,” said Extension Office Director Rob Hawk. “It is an exciting time to have the new 4H Agent, since the Swain County Event Park will have a new multi-use structure that can hold livestock shows and other 4H activities in years to come. Kyla-Jo Farmer will be a great addition to our Extension team.”
With just a few days on the job so far, Farmer said she’s looking forward to getting to know the families involved in 4-H and build programs they are interested in.
“I’m really excited and eager to meet the people in the community; they are the backbone of what makes our program successful,” she said. “I’m looking forward to getting to know them and what kinds of programs they want, not just livestock but other broad categories to serve what they need and want in Swain County.”
To get involved in the 4-H program, call the extension office at 488-3848. To learn more, visit https://swain.ces.ncsu.edu/categories/4-h-youth-development.