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Trish West

Personnel Profiles

Trish West

From chickens to children, Trish West is a 4-H'er for life

When it comes to 4-H agents, Trish West is a newbie. But she's a master when it comes to 4-H. Really. She mastered in poultry and egg science.

Trish became the Chatham County 4-H agent last October, but her connection to 4-H actually began when she was a "Navy brat" in Maryland. She won her first 4-H ribbon in Maryland where she says she "got her feet wet in 4-H" before her family moved to Clay County, Fla. near Orange Park.

Since then, she has been drenched in 4-H.

"When we moved to Florida, my parents had a hobby farm so my Dad helped me build a chicken coop," she said. "I had bantams because I thought they were pretty chickens. I learned that they are also mean chickens."

Trish married a former 4-H'er, Rodney West, and became Mom to four 4-H'ers. (Rodney was a 4-H'er in Liberty County.) "To us, once you are a 4-H'er, you're always a 4-H'er," she said.

As soon as Trish's oldest daughter turned 9, she signed her up for 4-H. "She mastered in fashion revue and she's now 24 and the mother of my first grandchild," Trish said. "Rose, my third child, was a district officer seven years ago and Peyton, my youngest, just came off district board and is a member of Clovers and Company."

Trish volunteered with Chatham County 4-H for years, taking kids to fall forum and state council. And, she worked with two community clubs in Bloomingdale, a town just outside Savannah.

The Chatham office recruited her to volunteer in the office and that turned into her taking on the job of 4-H program assistant. Trish held that job for 7 years before becoming the county's 4-H agent last year.

"It wasn't a big transition from program assistant to agent because program assistants do a lot of work and in a lot of counties they carry the program. I don't think they get enough credit. Basically, the amount of paperwork has increased," she said.

This year, Chatham County 4-H expects to reach 1,200 students through in school and community club meetings. "We are the sixth largest county in Georgia and we have 68 schools," she said. "Unfortunately, we just can't reach everyone."

Trish relies on her senior 4-H'ers to help carry the program. "I have a great group of senior 4-H'ers who do a lot of projects in the county and keep things going. They handle all the social networking. They have a blog site and a Facebook site."

Her senior 4-H'ers recently created a video PSA to educate Chatham County residents on the E. coli program in area waterways. "We have problem areas that have septic tanks. People think that you can move into houses with septic tanks and not have to maintain them. Our beaches were closed due to the levels of E. coli," she said. The PSA now airs on the local television stations. (Watch the video on YouTube.)

Through the recent budget cuts, Trish has kept a positive attitude. "Money is tight and it's not a good time to go out with a hat in your hand. So we tightened our belt and tied a knot and we are hanging on," she said. "Working with kids is so amazing. They can surprise you every day."

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

Released August 2011.