Double agents

By PHILIP CASE State Journal Columnist Published:

For years upon years, the same folks were agents at the County Extension Office here. They became legends in their areas of expertise: Paul Gray in agriculture, Nancy Edwards in whats now family and consumer science, and Dariel Rexroat in 4-H.

Gray was the first to retire. His name is still spoken with a certain quiet reverence by those who knew him and even in death hes remembered for, among other things, starting the Farm-City Field Day.

After moving to the new building on Lakeview Court, Rexroat retired a couple of years ago.

Then Nancy Edwards, a fixture in this community, called it quits last fall.

Across the inexorable movement of time, the face of County Extension has changed in Franklin County.

Keenan Bishop is now the dean of the office, having been there the longest in the ag agent position. Other agents between Gray and Bishop were John Jarvis, Roger Sparrow, and Michael Williams. There were two other ag agents between Gray and Sparrow.

Jennifer Hudnall replaced Rexroat in 4-H.

And now the complement is full again as Tamera Thomas has succeeded Edwards and Frankfort native Kim Cowherd is the horticulture agent, a position created several years ago and occupied by Cindy Fineseth initially and most recently Edie Greer.

Both have been at work for several months now and elsewhere on this page youll read their introductory columns. Just as their predecessors, theyll be regular contributors to this, Your Hometown Newspaper.

Tamera Thomas

Extension gives individuals an opportunity to make a better home for themselves and those who live there, said Thomas. I knew about the Extension service but I didnt know how much it offers.

Thomas holds a masters degree in family studies from the University of Kentucky. She received her undergraduate degree from Kentucky State University where she was most recently employed as the coordinator of the non-traditional student program.

Shes well aware of Edwards footprints on the landscape of this community.

Following her is a really great opportunity, said Thomas. I really feel blessed. Theres a foundation here. I can start in her footsteps, get a better knowledge of the community and build on what shes done.

Thomas describes herself as a generalist when asked what shell focus on in her position.

I really enjoy doing things that help strengthen families, she said, but right now a lot of my concentration is on nutrition. I really want to do something where I can have an impact on the lives of people and Ill respond to the needs of the community.

Thomas lives in Shelby County with her husband, Gene, pastor of the Pleasant View Baptist Church. They have two children, Emmanuel, 20, and Ebon, 25.

Kim Cowherd

Horticulture agent Kim Cowherd grew up in Frankfort and still lives here. The daughter of Betty Cowherd and the late Dr. Harry Cowherd, working in the ground and with plants has always been a part of her life, her father having been an avid gardener.

She retired from the state last November and went to work as banquet manager at the Holiday Inn Capital Plaza on Dec. 1.

But I wanted to get back in horticulture, she said, so I applied for this job.

Cowherd is a graduate of Murray State University. Her degree is in agriculture with an emphasis in horticulture and a minor in business. Shes reflective about her new position.

Were experiencing a move back to urban society, she said. Theres more interest in horticulture, home gardening and shared commercial farming like the Farmers Market.

As the Baby Boomers retire, theyre getting outside and doing more and more work in their yards.

The trend Cowherd describes prompted the Extension Board to add the position of horticulture agent several years ago. As the number of farms continued to decline, more and more questions were on home-related gardening problems and the need was addressed.

Cowherd brings a wealth of experience to the position. Since 1988 shes worked in landscaping for Facilities Management in Frankfort. At first under Kenneth Dotson as director and then as director when he retired.

While in Facilities Management she worked in grounds management for all Finance Cabinet-owned buildings including the old and new Governors Mansions, the capitol grounds and maintaining the floral clock.

Cowherds married to Jud Browning, greenhouse grower for the state. She and Browning have three children, Blair Owens and Blake Owens, Kims children from a previous marriage, and Christian Browning, an eighth grader at Morton Middle School in Lexington. Blairs a senior and Blakes a freshman at Western Hills High School.

Both Cowherd and Thomas encourage folks to call them with questions. The number at the Extension office is 695-9035.

As Thomas writes in her column here, this is indeed a time of change, but a change that should be viewed positively even expectantly.

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