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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Faces & Places: A job as old as dirt

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Remember when you were little and played in the mud and dirt and it would stick to your hands and feet and seem to fill every crevasse it touched and your mother would yell at you for dragging it in? Well, maybe you were a spudding agronomist, a person who studies soil, crops, fertility and other agronomic issues.

Sarah Kenyon, the new agronomy specialist with the Missouri University Extension Office in Alton, loves playing in the dirt.

Kenyon started her new job Nov. 2 and said she is still getting used to things and learning about the area but is excited about learning everything about the six county area she serves, which is Oregon, Howell, Shannon, Ozark, Douglas and Wright counties. "I'm not busy yet, but I hopefully will be," Kenyon said about her new job.

Kenyon and her husband and dog are renting a home in Alton. They moved from Neosho, and Kenyon grew up around Hurley. "Hurley looks a lot like what it does around here, so it kind of reminds me of home. We really like it here and everybody's been so nice to us and so hospitable," Kenyon said.

"In my previous job, my title was crop and pasture technician," Kenyon said. "I worked for a group of grazing dairies, so I went to my dairies and I helped them with their pasture rotation and how to feed the cows, whether they were grazing too high or too low and with the overall grazing scheme. In addition to that, I did their soil sample, their forage samples and I interpreted them and I did a little bit of research."

"I really loved my job," Kenyon said, but she's hoping for some fun times with the Extension, too.

"The part of my job that I enjoyed the most was working with the farmers and educating them about how to graze, when to graze and the process behind it," Kenyon said.

"This job (with the Extension office) came up and it was primarily an educational type of job, so I applied for it. That's what led me to here," Kenyon said.

Kenyon's undergraduate education was at College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo., which is about a five minute drive from Branson. She received her bachelor's degree from there in 2005. C of O is a work study college where students work for their tuition and their college classes are all paid for. C of O also has an extensive agriculture department where students can receive hands-on training. "I was a dairy hand," Kenyon said about her work study at the college. "I enjoyed it. It was great. It was a lot of fun. I also worked in the biology department." Kenyon double majored in agronomy and animal science and a minor in biology. Kenyon, then, continued her education at University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., and received her master's degree in crop soil and environmental science. Her area of study was forage physiology. Kenyon said she studied fescue and drought survival.

"I do soil samples, forage samples and hay samples," Kenyon said of her job at the Extension office. These samples are sent to a Missouri University lab for testing.

"For any type of sampling, we have soil augers that people can barrow and a hay probe," Kenyon said.

Kenyon explained that soil testing involves sampling the soil from different areas of land that have different features, such as a pasture and a hillside.

Though Kenyon said she likes playing in the dirt, she said her area of interest is forages, such as forage grazing and forage establishment in relating foraging to how it feeds cattle. "There's a lot of grazing in this area, so I think I fit in very well with this area. That's really what I want to focus on and spend the majority of my time focusing on that side of the agriculture industry," Kenyon said. "The idea behind forage grazing is that's what's feeding our cattle, and we need to feed our cattle as high quality a feed as possible. So, in order to be a good cattle farmer, you have to be a good forage grower, and in order to be a good forage grower you have to be a good soil steward. So, it all kind of goes back to the soil."

"It all kind of ties in," Kenyon said. "Each aspect is very important."

"I'll be presenting topics about agronomy subjects once in a while," Kenyon said about her new job.

Kenyon said her goal is to meet with the farmers to see what she can do to meet their needs.

She said anyone who has questions about their crops and grazing or about getting tests done can call her at the Extension office. The phone number for the Extension office is 778-7049.

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