Archive for Thursday, July 5, 2007

New county ag agent ready to help farmers

July 5, 2007

From the diseased to the infested, Michael Epler is the man to see when it comes to crops in Leavenworth County that are not quite up to par.

As of June 7, Epler joined the team at the K-State Research and Extension Leavenworth County Office as the new agriculture and natural resources agent.

Epler, 25, graduated in May from Kansas State University with a master's degree in agronomy, the study of soil management and crop production. He's come to Leavenworth County to bring a familiar face from the university and be the link on the front lines helping area residents.

"Everyday is something a little different," he said. "Just the fact that I'm helping people with problems is satisfying."

Epler grew up on a farm in Columbus, Kan., which is where his interest in horticulture began. At a young age, Epler said he was always trying to find ways for his family to farm more efficiently.

That combined with his desire to help people is what brought him to the job as an agent with the Extension Office. He said what appealed to him most about working in the office was the opportunity to interact with people.

Denise Sullivan, county extension agent family and consumer sciences, said the job of an agent was "very unique." She said agents always had to be prepared for the unexpected.

Epler and Sullivan are two of the three agents that work in the Leavenworth County office. Sullivan said that Epler was fitting in well and showing a lot of eagerness to jump in and learn.

So far Epler said he was staying busy taking calls and visiting the farms of people having agriculture-related problems. He said the office was still receiving calls about damage done by the freeze that happened around Easter.

When someone calls into the office with the report of a crop problem, Epler's job is to do research and make a diagnosis. From there he can recommend certain products to use or direct the person to a specialist.

Epler described his job as being the person who saves farmers from having to do all the legwork. He uses information gathered by research done at K-State to educate the farmers of Leavenworth County.

As the weather gets colder though, Epler will begin planning program events that are geared toward educating the public. He said his goal was to put on programs about environmental concerns that get counties to work together.

Outside of work, Epler described himself as an "outdoorsy" kind of guy, with hunting being one of his favorite activities. He said he was also a "music junkie" who would listen to anything once.

Epler said he sees himself staying with the Extension Office in Leavenworth County for a while. He likes being in eastern Kansas and said he is enjoying this opportunity to learn from the variety of issues he's had the chance to help farmers with so far.


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