By Extension: 30 year Extension career experiences – canning alligator and many changes

By Amy Schmid, Administrative Program Specialist, OSU Extension Service, Tillamook County

According to the bureau of labor statistics, workers in 2016 had been with their current employer for an average of 4.2 years. Nancy Kershaw is definitely an exception to this statistic. For over 30 years she has been the Family and Community Health and 4-H Extension Agent for Tillamook County. In those 30 years, Nancy has taught multiple generations of 4-H members’ food preservation and sewing and became the food preservation expert.
Nancy’s long service can be attributed to the fact that she knew exactly what she wanted to do growing up. Being a 4-H member herself, she knew she wanted to major in Home Economics and become a 4-H Agent. She obtained that bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University but when she graduated a master’s degree was required to become an Extension Agent.
She then taught High School Home Economics for two years while she prepared to go back to school to earn a master’s degree. Family relocation landed her in Crockett, Texas so instead of continuing her education at OSU she attended Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. After receiving her degree she spent three more years teaching High School Home Ec.

Wanting to make the move back to Oregon, Nancy finally became an Extension Agent in Washington County in June of 1984. After two and a half years there, her husband was offered a job in Tillamook. As fate would have it there was an open 4-H/Home Ec Agent position here at the Extension Office and the rest is history.
Nancy is now the 4-H Youth Development, Family & Community Health (FCH) & SNAP-Ed Managing Faculty for Tillamook County OSU Extension Service. She has seen a lot of change in Extension and her work over the last 30 years. When she first started, 4-H enrollments were much smaller and all in traditionally based clubs. Over the years day camps, afterschool programs, STEM programs and more have broadened the focus and enrollment of 4-H.

Nancy recalled that 1988 was a big year for change in food preservation. There was a lot of research that was done and many new guidelines came out about canning. She spent a lot of time educating people on the new safer canning standards. This work continues to this day, explaining to people why Grandma’s canning recipe that has been in the family for generations is not necessarily safe.
In the Family and Community Health (FCH) Program, the most notable change has been the shift in name and focus from Home Economics. Now the focus of the FCH Program is to work with families, organizations, and community leaders to support a healthy community. Physical Activity was not something that was part of her job originally. Now it is a big part of her work with two successful physical activity programs; Strong Women and Walk with Ease. She is also a member of the Year of Wellness Physical Activity committee, working to promote physical activity through blogs, events and programs. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program- Education (SNAP-Ed) is also a program that did not exist when Nancy started. Now the nutrition education program is in all the schools.
In Extension overall, Nancy has seen the shift of how information is provided. When she started the internet was really in its infancy. Extension actually served as the internet for people. It was where they came to find information. Now so much of everything is online. The focus is now on educating people where to look for research based information on the internet because so much of it is unreliable.

When asked why she has worked for OSU Extension for so long Nancy stated, “I enjoy the variety of questions and people that I meet. I really like seeing youth mature from Cloverbuds (kindergarten) through high school graduation.” And does she ever receive a variety of questions. The weirdest being, “How do I can alligator?” After checking with the state Food Preservation specialist who checked with the National Center for Home Food Preservation, it was concluded that alligator was a meat product and would be canned like meat in a pressure canner. Nancy’s question to the client was why are you canning alligator in Tillamook? To which the client responded that her son lived in the south and brought some to Tillamook for her. Finding the answer to that question on the internet would probably be next to impossible.

By Extension, Your Connection to the Programs, People, and Publications from OSU Extension Tillamook County

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