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Jonael Bosques (pictured on left)

Personnel Profiles

Jonael Bosques-Méndez

Jonael Bosques-Méndez's career as an Extension agent has been a long time in the making. He started working toward it when he was a child growing up in Puerto Rico.

"Some people want to be lawyers and doctors growing up. I just wanted to be an Extension agent," he said.

Bosques-Méndez grew up helping his father with the family's commercial greenhouse herb crops. They grew herbs like basil, thyme, mint and watercress in a hydroponic system. Their Extension agent often advised them on marketing, seed selection, pest control and how to make their farm more efficient.

"He helped the vitality of our greenhouse and was very knowledgeable," he said. "I looked up to our Extension agent and wanted to be involved in helping others in a service job, [too]."

Bosques-Méndez graduated with his bachelor's and master's degrees in animal science from the University of Puerto Rico in 2007. He moved to the U.S. and Coffee County, Ga., in December 2007, just a few weeks after graduating, to become the county Extension agent. In November 2009, he became the Extension agent in Greene County, Ga.

Today, about 60 percent of his calls are horticulture-related. The rest are related to agriculture and animal science.

Bosques-Méndez helps bridge the gap for the Hispanic community in the area. He helps translate bulletins and agricultural safety guides to Spanish, and he translates and gives Spanish lectures for several programs.

"There is a great need for translation around the state," he said. "Spanish-speaking workers are not able to communicate effectively and the language barrier needs to be addressed."

The Hispanic community doesn't know where services are and are isolated in the community, he said. There is also a big problem with safety in the industry for Hispanic workers in the dairy, poultry, landscaping and every other industry that employs Hispanic labor, he said.

"They don't know how to work the machines and equipment properly because no one can explain it to them, so they get hurt," he said. "It is a constant threat to the industry. By educating them, they can be a lot more effective and safer."

Bosques-Méndez also helps farmers in his county make decisions and visits them on their farms when the need arises. He also answers questions on anything from turf management to beef cattle and dairy. He often relies on specialists on the UGA Griffin campus to help him answer horticulture questions.

"Extension is the bridge between research and the farmer," he said. "Without Extension, farmers wouldn't have the opportunity to progress and be on the cutting edge of their industry. [We] are a non-bias source of information they can trust."

In his spare time, Bosques-Méndez spends time with his wife cooking, hiking, traveling to lakes and waterfalls, and discovering Georgia. He is also an avid wildlife photographer.

"Being engaged in the community is really gratifying, and you meet a lot of people and make a lot of friends," he said. "If you take this job seriously, you can really make an impact on the community."

(Written by Allie Byrd, a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Released September 2010.