Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s vision statement is to “be the leader in providing science-based information and solutions in agriculture and health to every Texan.” Let’s just break that down to the Denton County Extension office reaching every Denton County citizen: a mere 944,000 folks.
Our office currently consists of eight employees. I’m not so swift at numbers, but even I can see that’s a lot of people to reach per staff member. A LOT. Fortunately for us and the county, we have amazing volunteers that extend our reach into the community. In fact, I would probably throw in the trowel (I mean towel) if it were just me trying to reach our community.
Since Volunteer Appreciation Week is April 18-24, I’m going to brag a bit about the many people who serve Extension and help us every day. First, we have the Leadership Advisory Board, consisting of about 20 community members who advise us on the most pressing issues of the county. They provide guidance to us for our programming, connect us to opportunities and new audiences and represent different geographic locations of the community. We are always looking for people who are connected to their community that would like to participate on this board.
Even more specialized, we have Program Area Committees that advise the agents on particular subject areas. Currently, we have the 4-H Parent Leader Association, 4-H County Youth Council, 4-H/FCH Committee, Equine Committee, Agriculture Committee and the Landscape Advisory Board. Most of these groups meet monthly. These committee members are professionals and leaders in their discipline areas and able to provide targeted guidance.
We also have three “Master Volunteer” programs: Master Wellness, Master Naturalists and Master Gardeners. These volunteers conduct educational outreach in the county. Not only do they go through intensive training for these roles, they have a requirement for continuing education and service hours annually.
Master Naturalists can be found at local parks and natural areas, working in the interpretive center, conducting bird hikes, checking bird boxes, repairing trails, conserving or restoring native habitats, teaching classes and leading hikes for youth and adults. Master Gardeners are known for some of their big annual events like Garden Tour, Plant Sale, Veggie Show and Fall Garden Fest. But, they also have a robust speakers bureau and a very busy help desk (they answered 1,275 questions in 2020). Master Wellness volunteers lead educational programs and also work with our 4-H youth on food and nutrition related projects. They have helped fill in the gap while the Family Community Health agent position has been vacant.
In 2020, the year of COVID restrictions, our volunteer groups devoted 47,542 hours to serving the community.
As you can see, volunteers are essential to the success and functioning of Denton County AgriLife Extension. While this is the month for honoring these selfless people, it is our hope that they realize how much we appreciate them every day. I firmly believe that time is our most precious gift and am so grateful that these wonderful volunteers share their precious time with us.