As one century has rolled into the next, the rural economic dynamics of Val Verde County have changed. Yet, that hasn’t precluded the need for a county extension agent here - Harris County still has one too.
Texas A&M AgriLife county extension agent Emily Grant arrived in Del Rio during April of 2018 inclined to assist and guide. She immediately went to work.
Her undertakings include livestock guardian dog demonstrations for county ranchers, involvement in 4-H programs, such as wool and mohair education, the organization of the county stock show and attendance of out-of-town shows as a consultant to local youth.
“I really enjoy being with the extension service because it gives me the balance of working with producers, consumers and our youth. So I really get to a little bit of everything,” said Grant, the former Kinney County extension agent.
She explained that ag extension agents are tasked with using the research provided by Texas A&M and applying it to real-world practices in all 254 Lone Star State counties.
“Me, personally, being an ag and natural resources agent, I work with our livestock and ag and natural resource producers and stakeholders to help them get the information based upon science and research,” she said.
According to Grant, the A&M AgriLife Extension Service mission is to provide an apolitical, research-based service to every county. “Kind of a network for our farmers and ranchers to use.” She coordinates adult and youth programming as it relates to agriculture to better help county producers. In other words, the practical application of A&M scientific research that benefits Val Verde County ranchers and farmers.
What drew Grant to extension? A long and winding background in agriculture.
“I grew up on a farm and raised cattle and goats and so I grew up showing through 4-H sheep and goat program,” she said.
Grant matriculated to Aggieland with the intention of being a math teacher and basketball coach, “which is kind of not where I ended up.” Agricultural blood is thicker than career intentions. “I really wanted to stay in the agricultural field.”
Her father is the superintendent of the Fort Worth Stock Show which enabled her to volunteer there throughout high school and college fortifying and cementing her interest in agriculture. She soon decided that ag was her path. Grant received a bachelors degree in agricultural science and served an internship with the Texas Beef Council but obtained a teaching certificate in case an ag job proved to be too elusive.
Her desire was to educate the public about agriculture on a full-time basis. She said, “There are about five jobs like that in the entire state,” so she taught ag in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for three years - “and really, really enjoyed that job” - before joining the ranks of the A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Grant indicated that the ag service’s big push now is agritourism. They will be rolling out an initiative to help farmers and ranchers learn about other income opportunities that could be available to them in the form of tourism.
The Val Verde County A&M AgriLife Extension recently hosted a “Birding the Border” event and next year they’re hoping to do something on a larger scale. Grant couldn’t divulge what that was because it isn’t yet official but did say that it would allow the ag producers to directly benefit from agritourism events on their property.