Kari Sponaugle Is New Highland-Bath ANR Extension Agent

“This is Kari Sponaugle – I am the Agriculture Natural Resources Extension Agent for Bath and Highland County.

Ms. Sponaugle recently made the change to the ANR agent position after being the 4-H agent for a number of years, and I asked her what spurred that decision.

“Well, we’ll go clear back to 2017. That was when I had been in Extension for about four years by then. And our current agent at the time was Rodney Leech, and he decided to retire. And that was a wonderful thing for him and a cool thing for the office – we just realized it might be a little while before we get another Ag agent in the office. We were kind of pre-warned by Tech that it might be a little while, and it was – it was two and a half years.”

“So the first opening that came up was in 2019. We re-interviewed and Berkeley came along – Berkeley Clark Cassidy has been our agent for the last two years, and that was a great thing. I was currently really comfortable in the 4-H position, and was having a good time programming with kids from ages five to 18 and didn’t think I was going anywhere. And Berkeley was here for two years and just this past spring, she actually, her last day was the same day I went out on maternity leave with my third kid. So while on maternity leave, I got to spend some more time on the farm with the husband and the other two kids, and it was a fun time. And while I was off, the position got advertised. And it literally was on the day that the applications were due, and I said ‘you know what I mean, I live ag every day with my husband and my family on the farm. And it’s part of who I am and who I appreciate being so I’m like, Well, why not? I’ll just go ahead and see if I can apply for it.’ So I called my director and I said, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about it.’ And he’s like, ‘okay, get your stuff in.’ And here we are.”

She talked about her new roles and responsibilities.

“So in this new position, I will still be working with youth on occasion, it just depends on the program. But my new primary focus is now towards farmers and landowners in the area. And what I want to be is the arm of Extension that connects our local community to research based information from Virginia Tech and Virginia State University.”

“That being said, I am not an expert in any of the topics currently. I’ve been helping to diagnose trees and chickens with all kinds of ailments, along with you know, cattle and sheep and forage questions. So it’s been a really cool transition because now I’m working more with adults. So now I’m answering more adult type questions, and they’re hopefully to the benefit and the profitability of someone’s land or farm operation. So that’s my new role.”

“Now, in the case of children, I’ll still have a co-partnership with the local county fair program. I also still help with district and state things like the State Fair of Virginia, which is where I’ll go this weekend. And so, kids won’t be on the forefront, but they are definitely still part of the programming, because if we don’t start teaching kids about agriculture, we won’t have future farmers who need information about trees and chickens.”

Further education and training is a necessity.

“Just like when I started as the 4-H agent, there will be a learning curve and a time of training. So I’ve already hit the ground running with pesticide trainings. I have a few other things coming up., there’s a small ruminant slaughter seminar coming up in October that I’m really interested in taking – we’ll see if I go to that one. But between now in the next 12 months, there will be lots of workshops I’ll be attending. So if I’m in and out of the office, just leave me a message. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. But it will definitely be a time of learning to make sure I’m up to date on all relevant agricultural issues and to give you the best information that I can.”

To contact Ms. Sponaugle –

“You can reach me primarily at the Highland County office where I’m housed. So that phone number is 540-468-2225. You can also reach me one day a week in Bath County, which is 540-839-7261 and my email is karis@vt.edu. My Highland County office is next to the Highland Center and my Bath County office is housed on the ground floor of the Bath County Courthouse.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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