Piggott Native New Extension Agent

Thursday, June 30, 2016
Allison Howell checks a boll weevil trap in a soybean field north of Rector.(TD photo/Jessica Rainwater)

Piggott native Allison Howell was recently employed as Clay County Extension Agent (eastern district) to replace longtime agent Andy Vangilder.

Howell said the job has been "a little overwhelming, but so exciting. I didn't realize how much training was involved, but I'm looking forward to a whole lot more field work...I love this job. It's a constant learning experience. It's new every day and not the same old thing day after day."

She said the Piggott office was exactly the job she had wanted while earning her master's degree from Arkansas State University. Being from the area, she was already familiar with many of the local farmers and never wanted to live anywhere else, which makes the opening of the position perfect for her. She plans to turn the position into a career, not just a job. "I definitely have some big shoes to fill, but I'm determined to do my very best," Howell said, and she's taking on her new position with positivity and a big smile.

She added that Extension may be one of the more under-utilized sources of help for farmers. "We are government employees paid with taxes so people should take advantage of what we have to offer," Howell said. "The good thing about Extension is we are a team. There's a specialist for everything and always someone with an answer."

Howell recently made another big life transition when she married GW Howell in October of last year. The two met at an intersection in Piggott while Howell was taking up money for prom in 2011 and they've been inseparable since.

Howell says she's "pretty tickled" to be able to stay in her hometown and do what she loves. "My grandparents, parents and GW are all here. It is a relief to not have to move to use my degree."

GW comes from a farming family in Missouri, but he now is employed by Kinder and Morgan working on tugboats.

Howell spent last summer interning with Vangilder. She feels she learned so much. "It's definitely been beneficial to my education," Howell said.

Howell added she's learned more from Vangilder than she had in all four years at college, simply because now she knows how to apply what she's learned to life. She has learned the difference in varieties of seeds, funguses, and different pests and their effects on different crops such as the cutworm. "I got to see a cutworm in three different crops -- corn, cotton and beans, which will help me identify the pest in the future," Howell said.

Though Howell learned an expansive amount during the summer, two lessons stick out the most -- "never stop learning and you're never too smart to ask questions." She said there is always room to learn and grow. Things are constantly changing with new varieties of plants and chemicals popping up on the market all the time, so learning is a very big component in farming.

Howell grew up in a farming environment as her father Kevin Gurley was a tractor mechanic most of her life, but her decision to pursue a degree in plant and soil science stemmed from her love of the outdoors.

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