Barton brings passion to new 4-H role

Published 11:33 am Monday, August 22, 2016

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye  Emily Barton has wanted to be 4-H Agent since she was a sophomore in high school.

Star Photo/Abby Morris-Frye
Emily Barton has wanted to be 4-H Agent since she was a sophomore in high school.

Emily Barton’s childhood passions have turned into her career, and now she hopes to inspire that passion in a new generation of children.
Soon children in 4th through 12th grades in Carter County will get to meet Barton as she takes on her new role as the 4-H Agent for the UT Extension Office in Carter County.
Becoming a 4-H Agent is the culmination of a dream that began when Barton was a student at Cherokee High School in Rogersville.
“When I was in middle school I was that kid who loved agriculture and gardening,” Barton recalled. “I would follow my grandparents around learning to garden and about canning.”
While these things were enjoyable to Barton, she said none of the other children her age seemed to share those interests, so she often felt strange or odd.
“When I got to high school I met students who were in 4-H and Future Farmers of America,” Barton said. “I was validated. I wasn’t strange, there were these other kids who shared these interests.”
Barton enrolled in one of the schools agriculture classes and met a teacher who would inspire her passion for things that grow —Tara Bunch.
In class one day, the teacher asked the students to bring something from home and tell the class about it. Barton, who described herself as shy at that age, said she brought a Taylor Swift CD from home and ask she began talking about Swift’s music another student in the class, who happened to attend church with her, called out and told everyone that Barton was a good singer.
“I was embarrassed,” Barton said. “But, I sung a verse of a Taylor Swift song.”
While the moment was definitely uncomfortable for Barton, it was one that would have a profound impact on her. Her fellow students in the class, as well as Ms. Bunch, kept encouraging her and helping her to overcome her fears.
“That group, those seniors and juniors, they saw something in me and Ms. Bunch saw something in me,” Barton recalled. “I had finally found people who encouraged me and my passions and helped turn those passions into a career.”
Barton began working with her high school 4-H program and competing in various projects. Her main focus was on horticulture and gardening. After her first trip to the national competition she was hooked.
“From my sophomore year on I knew I wanted to be a 4-H Agent or an agriculture teacher,” Barton said.
She began her college career at Walters State Community College with plans to transfer to the University of Tennessee. Barton found her plans for college changing after she married her sweetheart, who was in the Navy. The couple moved to Florida and Barton finished her degree there, changing her major from agriculture to education.
“I knew that I could still become an agent with the degree if we ever moved back to Tennessee, and we did,” Barton said.
Barton taught for a while in Florida and for a short time after the couple returned to Tennessee, but eventually she achieved that dream that began in high school when she was selected to become the new 4-H Agent for Carter County after the previous agent, Camille Jesse, retired earlier this year.
“I am beyond fortunate that Ms. Jesse has built such a strong program,” Barton said. “We have great relationships with the schools and the community.”
“I want to build on those relationships,” she added. “We would like to reach out more to the city school system.”
Barton said her main goal for 4-H in Carter County is to continue to build on the strong programs that are already in place while working to introduce new programs and curriculum for the kids.
For more information on 4-H and its programs, contact Emily Barton at the Carter County UT Extension Office at 423-542-1818.

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