BY MELANIE BUCK –
Polk County’s Extension Office staffing is now complete with the addition of Josh Yates as Extension Agent last week. Yates joins longtime agent Carla Vaught and newly added agent Bridgett Martin, as well as Sue Oglesby who runs the front. The team has near a century of combined experience under their belt, as all have been in agent positions for several years.
Yates was raised in Sequoyah County, Oklahoma, graduating from Vian High School before attending Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. He finished up his college career at Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture.
His first Extension Agent job was in Lafayette County, Arkansas where he remained for more than 18 months. He then went back to Oklahoma to work as an agent in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
He admitted that when traveling through Arkansas and he would come through Mena, he always thought it was beautiful and a nice place to be. Little did he know, in just a few short years, he would call it home. He said he heard of the open position and his old boss from Lafayette County encouraged him to apply.
Once hearing he gained the position, Yates and wife, Kaitlyn, packed up and moved to Polk County. He also has an 11-year old daughter named Abbey. They are excited to be here, and Yates is excited to get to know the people he will serve. He has plans to present programming and workshops to the community, much like previous agents have done.
Focusing on youth is close to his heart as well. Yates said he wants to present programming that also gets youth involved so they will carry on the farming tradition. “I want to have programming that educates young people to be young farmers.” He will also spend around 35% of his time working the 4H programming. “Youth is our future. We are going to have to advocate agriculture and teach kids what that is. Someday we may end up feeding ourselves so we want to give them the opportunities that their parents and grandparents had. We don’t want to lose those small farms.”
Teaching others to practice up-to-date procedures by looking at current research is something else Yates would like to bring to the table. As eager as he is, he knows he has “as lot to learn,” although he has been in extension for several years, and asks for patience from his visitors. “I will find the right answer,” said Yates. “Even if I have to research it and call you back, I will find your answer.” A self-admitted “hands-on learner,” he chuckled and said, “Give me a chance and let me struggle, that’s how I learn.”
Proud to be here, Yates said he looks forward to working with everyone and plans to be here for a long time. “I put a lot of thought and prayer into it before I applied for it, before the interview, and before I accepted it, and I plan on making this home.”
For any questions, contact Josh, Bridgett, or Carla at 479-394-6018. The Polk County Extension Office is a division of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.