Four years after Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Director Kevin Starr “took a chance” on area agriculture agent Libby Yarber, the 28-year-old is returning north to her home town in Virginia to pursue a job opportunity.
Yarber will take on a role at a agriculture retailer as a field sales representative and agronomist — doing much of the same of what she does for Cooperative Extension, she said, but will be closer to friends and family, while working with about 40-80 growers. Chemical, seed and fertilizer sales are a few of the aspects of her new position, in addition to consulting with growers.
A rare opportunity for that area, Yarber heard about the possibility of an opening at the business located near the Shenandoah Valley and was excited to apply.
After an initial interview, and spending a day with her perspective new co-workers to see what the job would be like, she felt confident she would hear back and possibly be hired by the company.
A bittersweet leave for her, Yarber said she will miss the farmers and area residents the most, she said, and the small-town feel that isn’t quite the same in Virginia. Though the town where she’s from isn’t exactly a big city, it’s not far from larger, busier areas — not so remote and rural as the Vale home she has been renting during her time here.
“I really enjoyed my time here,” Yarber told the Times-News last week, “both socially and professionally. I came straight from college to working here; this was my first ‘real job.’ “
Starr is among those who are sad to see Yarber go, as he works to get someone in to fill her shoes as soon as is feasible. Tight budgets and waiting lists, however, have Starr unsure as to when a replacement will be able to step in and cover what Yarber has done over her time with Cooperative Extension. After Dec. 7 — her last day — the other agents will work to divvy up the extra tasks and responsibilities that will soon be unattended.
As for the next agent, Yarber has some recommendations, tools she has learned over the years.
Don’t be afraid to go beyond what the job entails. Get to know local farmers and even those in the county who aren’t involved with agriculture. Yarber worked extensively with the Extreme Home Makeover edition that was filmed in Lincoln County last year, along with leading a livestock judging team — who she made a pact with to visit as often as she could, as long as they promised the same.
The farmers, however, are where the tools of the trade lie for the next area agriculture agent.
“Know the growers here, they’re your biggest asset,” Yarber said. “They taught me more than I taught them.”
Starr hopes Yarber’s enthusiasm and activeness in the community will be characteristics of the newest addition to his team — someone like Libby, he said.
After breaking through cultural and dialect barriers, a different atmosphere than she was used to, Yarber began to dig in and really enjoy her job — her last tip as she says goodbye. Getting to know the people, what they enjoy and how to effectively communicate and work with farmers, were a few of the hurtles she had to clear beforehand, but now just sees as everyday parts of her life.
But before Yarber heads home, Starr and the rest of the Extension group invite local residents to a free event for Yarber at 6 p.m., Dec. 7, at the Cultural Center. Admission is free, call (704) 736-8452 for more information.