March is Extension Month in Tennessee

Over the past couple of weeks, you might have noticed several signs with the 4-H clover and UT Extension logos scattered across the entire county. This is a part of this year’s activities to promote Extension in our local area. Our office covers many topic areas including 4-H Youth Development, Family and Consumer Sciences, as well as Agriculture and Natural Resources.

UT Extension has a long-running history in Jefferson County. We provide a broad spectrum of services and programs for the benefit of our neighbors in the community. Whether you are familiar with our office or not, we would like to take a moment to tell you a little bit about each one of our team members and what our organization is all about.

Christine Smith is our Administrative Assistant and she is the newest member of our staff. Her smile is the first thing you see when you step in the door and she’s the first one you speak with on the phone. Chris joined the office in January of this year. She enjoys Crossfit, fishing, spending time with her boyfiend, Mark Elmore, and walking her dog, Wrangler.

Karen Nelms is our 4-H Agent and County Director for our office, all while daily wrangling a family of 4. Karen has 19 years of service to Extension under her belt between Grainger and Jefferson counties. Karen and her husband, Christian, have two sons, Andy & Jack, who enjoy history and taking care of their sheep, cows, cats and their dog, Clover.

Robyn Elswick joined us in August of 2017 as our energetic 4-H Program Assistant. When she isn’t leading club meetings or brainstorming ways to reinvent the wheel, she often finds herself in the middle of a daily adventure with her husband Teddy and their three girls – Alexandria, Kylee, and Azlyn.

During the school year, Karen and Robyn cultivate a presence in every school in Jefferson County through their monthly 4-H Club meetings for 4th – 12th grades. 4-H has a long-running presence in our county so you and your children may remember your own past participation, whether it was giving a 4-H Speech or Demonstration. Those mainstays are still provided to 4-Hers today among many other opportunities offered throughout the year. We also offer Shooting Sports, Sewing Group, 4-H Horse Club, Market Hog Project Group, Chick Chain and 4-H Honor Club.

Sarah Vaden is our Family and Consumer Sciences Agent. She conducts many programs in Jefferson County that cover wellness, nutrition, and financial management. Sarah is known for her canning classes, Tri-County Trailblazers, and Home Buyer Education courses. Sarah and her husband, Robby, love to travel and go camping every chance they get. Sarah has been with UT Extension for 18 years and was an agent in Union and Anderson counties before joining our staff in 2012.

Melissa Whitaker is our Tennessee Nutritional Consumer Educational Program Assistant here in Jefferson County. Her passion is educating and encouraging our county’s youth and adults to better their health and that of their families. If your child is in 3rd grade and attends any of our Jefferson County Schools, odds are they have already met Melissa through the Rudy Raccoon program. Prior to joining UT Extension, Melissa was a teacher in Physical Education. Melissa and her husband, Jeff, enjoy watching their kids, Lucas and Katie, play basketball and softball every chance they get.

Ryan Brown is our Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent in Jefferson County. He is a two-time graduate of the University of Tennessee and is a native of Sumner County. Before joining our staff in July of 2020, he was an Extension Agent for the University of Georgia since 2018. Ryan is responsible for conducting all agricultural programs in our county including Master Beef, Beef Quality Assurance, and County Standardized Tests with our row crop producers. He enjoys getting out in the community to meet people, as well as helping the citizens of Jefferson County find solutions to everyday problems they might be facing. Ryan and his wife, Sarah, enjoy spending time outdoors with friends and family.

If you have any questions or if you are interested in some of our programs, please reach out to us by calling 865-397-2969. We would love to meet you and help any way we can.

Programs in agriculture and natural resources, 4-H youth development, family and consumer sciences, and resource development. University of Tennessee Institue of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture and county governments cooperating. UT Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment.