OSU Extension promotes popular 4-H program and more

 Staff in the Adair County OSU Extension office are, front row, from left: Jennifer Patterson and Jessie Garcia Collins. Back row: Sharon VanDevender, Penny Meridith, and Naomi Fuson.

Adair County has the highest 4-H enrollment in the Northeast District – out of 24 counties – and is second in the entire state.

“This speaks volumes for our community, 4-H leaders and parents, and local organizations. The future of our youth is very important,” said Jennifer Patterson, Adair County Extension director, Ag/4-HYD.

She has been in this job for three years, focusing on agriculture and 4-H youth development.

“Our office is an ‘extension’ of Oklahoma State University. We offer unbiased, research-based information and programs to Adair County. We focus on the specific needs and concerns of our county. Our program areas include Agriculture, 4-H Youth Development, and Family Consumer Science,” Patterson said.  

Specifically, her responsibilities include a variety of hats.

“I manage our county office as the county Extension director. I also oversee all OSU Extension Agriculture and county 4-H programs. This includes working with our local producers – both livestock/poultry – and farmers, local schools, individual clubs, and civic groups,” said Patterson.  

Five people work in the OSU Extension office in Stilwell. Naomi Fuson, administrative support staff, has been there five years; Penny Meridith, Family Consumer Science educator, started in December 2020; Jessie Garcia, HOP (High Obesity Program) educator, has been on staff two years; and Sharon Vandevender, CNEP (Child Nutrition Education Program) assistant, also started last year, in April 2020.

Each staff member has a very important role, Patterson said.

“Naomi Fuson is the ‘glue’ to our office. She supports all of our program areas, assists with county programs and has specific administrative duties as well. Penny Meridith manages the Family Consumer Science program area, which works closely with our OHCE – OK Home and Community Education – group and teaches the Co-Parenting for Resilience course for the county, to name a few,” she said. 

Jessie Garcia works under the HOP grant program.

“She has been part of many county improvement projects to promote safe and healthy living. She has also orchestrated food drives during COVID. Sharon Vandevender works under a CNEP grant, which provides programs for youth and adults. Education offered is to improve nutrition and physical and activity behaviors,” said Patterson. 

Patterson said she most enjoys the diversity of Adair County and what the Extension programs can offer to all. The job comes with many aspects she enjoys.

Challenges have come with COVID-19, she said.

“COVID has presented obstacles this past year. We have always taken pride in our in-person programs. Reaching our audiences on a virtual platform has presented new challenges for us. We continue to explore new and innovative ways to reach our community,” she said.