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franklin county times

Franklin County 4-H introduces new regional agent

Austin Blankenship, a native of Moulton and a graduate of Auburn University, is taking on the role of 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent for Franklin County.

While he’s new to the job, Blankenship is no stranger to working with 4-H and related activities. Along with his degree in agriculture science, his experience includes having spent a year and a half as a 4-H agent assistant in Lauderdale County. Most recently he was an NRCS soil conservationist with the USDA in DeKalb County. He also helps his father with a large family farm.

Blankenship explained he’ll mostly be working with fourth, fifth and sixth grades. “I’ll meet with students in their classrooms to present lessons to introduce and re-enforce 4-H values,” he said, “as well as address related areas where teachers identify their students have a need.”

His duties will also take him outside the classroom. “Among other activities, I will be working with various interest clubs, like Shotgun Club. We also hope to get more groups started, such as Junior Master Gardeners or Chef 4-H.”

Heidi Tilenius, Lauderdale County Extension coordinator said Blankenship was an intern when he was still in school and helped in several counties before hiring on. “He came to work with us in 2020 right before COVID hit. He helped with a lot of the 4-H programming we had. He also did a lot of social media to help get information out to the kids because we did a lot of things online,” Tilenius said. “He’s just a pleasure to be around. Everybody in the office thought the world of him, and we enjoyed having him here.

“He has good interpersonal skills and good interactions with the students and kids. I think he’ll have some wonderful opportunities in Franklin County,” Tilenius added. “I think the folks down there will be very receptive to him, and I think he’ll be very receptive to them as well. It’s a really good fit.

“I didn’t have any full-time positions up here to be able to offer him one, but I’m so glad it has worked out for him to have one in Franklin County. He’s got a passion for extension work, and he’s very involved in the Farmers Federation and Young Farmers group and very dedicated to agriculture. He’s solid and dependable, and we need that these days – people who are consistent.”

Lauderdale County Farmers Federation Chairman Joe Dickerson said Blankenship “served Lauderdale County very well in the time he spent in our county. Franklin County has gained a huge asset in having him as a leader in their county.” 

Blankenship said he’s looking forward to getting to know the children and the area better.

“I’m eager to look for areas where programming can grow,” he added. “If anyone is interested in 4-H programs, I encourage them to contact the Extension office and get in touch.”

“He has a lot of great ideas,” said Katernia Cole Coffey, Franklin County Extension coordinator. “We’re glad to have him as a member of the Extension team, and we look forward to working with him.”

To learn more about Franklin County 4-H, call 256-332-8880 and visit the Facebook page or website, http://www.aces.edu/counties/Franklin/.