Barton nets TFA Agent of the Year award

Published 5:09 pm Tuesday, September 4, 2018

For Emily Barton, her first two years as the 4-H Extension Agent in Carter County has been about quick growth.

And her determination to learn the things she needed to help her students has paid off in more ways than one.

In early August, the Tennessee Forestry Association announced that Barton had been selected as the 2018 Agent of the Year.

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Carter County, dating back to the 1970s, has a history of offering 4-H programming in wildlife and forestry, both of which are offered to local Carter County and Elizabethton high school students. For Barton, however, the areas of forestry and wildlife were two subjects she had little experience in.

“I grew up with some 4-H programs in Hawkins County, and we just didn’t focus on those two areas,” said Barton. “I was really a novice, and I still am.”

Barton, not wanting to let her students down, was not deterred and reached out to some local volunteers who had extensive experience in the two subjects.

“This community has such a strong background with our volunteers,” said Barton. “Mr. Keith Hart, Mr. Buddy Farmer, and a lot of ag teachers in the area and retired ag teachers, forestry and wildlife has been their areas of focus. I am just thankful that those guys took me in and coached me like I was one of the students.”

With her position as the 4-H Extension Agent, Barton helps get students ready for competitions and recently, along with retired teacher Buddy Farmer, helped coach the Carter County 4-H Forestry Team to a 12th-place finish at the 39th annual National 4-H Forestry Invitational, which featured teams from many different states.

Since her high school years at Cherokee High School, Barton had always known that she wanted to be a 4-H agent.

“In high school, I was in 4-H and FFA and absolutely loved it,” said Barton. “I knew that was something that I could do for the rest of my life. I was very much into horticulture, gardening, landscaping. I loved it. The middle school I went to, a lot of my peers weren’t into it, and I felt I must be kind of different because not many people wanted to spend their vacation in the garden.

“But when I got to high school they had that agriculture department,” continued Barton. “They had a greenhouse, and I couldn’t believe that it was something you could make a career out of. I just never knew that part. When I found those classes, I found relationships and adults that could be my mentors and tell me it was OK that I had those interests. That was a life changer for me.”

And just like Barton had mentors in high school, she finds herself being mentors to students who share the same interests she had as a high schooler.

“I just had a few recently go off to school and just in things they say and do, you see glimpses of how you were at their age,” said Barton. “You hope to steer them and keep them interested. I always tell the ones going off to college that I am just a phone call away.”

When asked about winning the Agent of the Year award, Barton said she was surprised to have won and she could think of so many others she felt deserved it.

“I don’t have the right words to describe it,” said Barton. “It is unexpected. I can think of so many more of my colleagues that have worked in this field and deserve it. If I could I would nominate all of them tomorrow because I look up to them and I pick up the phone and call them when I have questions.”