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The river changes course again – and that’s OK

I grew accustomed to my office dynamic. Not much turnover among a strong team of educators, advocates and facilitators. I liked it that way. We didn’t feel stagnant – felt like the current was always moving.

As we ushered in 2019, Wendy Rice had been the family consumer science agent for 18 years; I had started with the office in 2007; Greg Felsen had been our 4-H youth development agent since 2009; and Angela Fountain, our assistant/glue, had arrived shortly after Greg. So that is 10 years, give or take a month, of the same crew.

Like any team, or family, we had our missteps, our hiccups. I know that we didn’t always agree with each other, but the hope was that we respected each other, and at the end of the day, we could talk about kids, grandkids, football and the Extension.

But then the river decided to curve – to gain speed. Wendy retired soon after the new year, and we welcomed Nicole Clark onboard. She brought new ideas, new directions and a fresh perspective about what adult education could look like.

And the river slowed.

Fast forward to the fall, and Greg announced he was going to start a new position as county director of the Montezuma County Extension Office. Now, horticulture, or agriculture, is no 4-H. 4-H consists of long days (and nights), lots of weekends, kids (and parents) and a really stressful week in August called county fair. And Greg – along with Angela, a whole posse of volunteers and some amazing kids – always made it look like a walk in the park (or arena, if you will).

In a month, Greg will hang his hat 45 miles west of here. For those of you in Montezuma County, you’re getting a good egg. He’s an upstate New Yorker with a love of the Southwest. He can be cranky, feisty and calm, all in one hour. Much like your weather. But if you give him some time to understand your community, you will see how he cares about the kids in 4-H, about agriculture and about inclusivity. He’s going to give you everything he has, so be patient, and let him.

So I see the river changing course again – there will be some drops, eddies, riffles and some hairy rapids. And that’s OK. As my beard gets grayer, my back stays sore and I listen to more jazz, I know that these changes, these scary moments, are good for me. They are good for the Extension Office.

We need fresh eyes, new perspectives, new ideas. That doesn’t always mean we need new people because now that I have chaired my second search committee in less than a year, I’ve also realized that hiring within the Colorado State University system is a drawn-out, bureaucratic process that should be enjoyed only once a decade. Or longer.

As a community, we here at Extension have always appreciated your support, your belief in what we do. We’re glad that you read our articles, come to our workshops, entrust us with your kids and occasionally stop by with the random plant, insect or disease ravaging your vegetable garden.

Expect us to be strong in 2020. The master gardener class starts in less than a month. Nights are getting shorter. And the lettuce and peas get planted in about 100 days.

The seasons, like all changes, aren’t always easy. But they remind us that everything, including the river, continues to move.

Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at darrin.parmenter@co.laplata.co.us or 382-6464.

Darrin Parmenter