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June 29, 2007

Client praises Amy Thomas for service

Amy Thomas
Amy Thomas

Consumers are quick to complain to others about an organization that has disappointed them, but not so quick to compliment those who go above and beyond the call of duty to serve clients. But Mary Joe Hanes, a cattle operator at the Hawk Farm in Stokes County, is an exception.

Hanes was so impressed with the service she received and the relationship she has developed with North Carolina Cooperative Extension livestock agent Amy Thomas that she wrote a three-page letter praising Thomas last fall to Dr. Jon Ort, director of North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. In her letter, Hanes described the many ways that Thomas has helped Hanes’s operation and contributed to a revived cattle industry in Stokes and Forsyth counties where Thomas has served for two years.

“In all my years of producing livestock in Stokes County, I have never utilized Cooperative Extension as I am now,” Hanes wrote to Ort.

Hanes is exuberant in describing her relationship with Thomas. When Thomas first came to Stokes County, Hanes received a letter from her about cow-keeping forms she had to share. When Hanes responded that she was interested, she expected to receive more information by mail.

One day while working on the farm, Hanes looked up to see Amy Thomas’s truck coming up the drive. “I had no idea she would come out. She just dropped by and introduced herself,” Hanes said.

Right away, Thomas began helping the Haneses with their operation. She taught them to take pregnancy test samples from cows, helped them get into a class on artificial insemination and helped them make decisions about animals to cull from their herd.

“Anything we came up with, Amy had an answer for – any direction we wanted to go,” Hanes said.

Thomas said she was surprised to learn of Hanes’s complimentary letter to the head of the Cooperative Extension Service. She acknowledges that she has a good relationship with and respect for Hanes.

She describes her job responsibilities as most livestock agents would – working with goat and cattle operators, helping with artificial insemination, breeding, selection and pregnancy, and working with local youth who show livestock.

Thomas helped introduce the Haneses to youth livestock showing. Last summer, she helped organize a show calf clinic at Hanes’s farm to train youth through a mock livestock show. “The youth were able to experience what the show ring might be like and receive a gentle critique from Amy as to their showmanship skills and cattle-handling abilities,” Hanes wrote to Ort.

Hanes was most touched at the way Thomas interacted with Mike, who Hanes described as a mentally and physically handicapped adult who competed in a special class in the livestock show. “For the cattle show, Amy’s husband Charlie brought one of their most gentle heifers for Mike to show. I wish you could have seen him in the ring with this beautiful heifer and the giant smile on his face when Amy awarded him his blue ribbon,” Hanes wrote.

Hanes said that the attention that Thomas gave to Mike illustrates her commitment to people. “Amy is here for everybody, and she treats everyone well,” Hanes said. “It doesn’t matter how trivial your need is, she’s ready to help.”

For Thomas, it’s all in a day’s work. “I try to do as much as I can. With two counties, it’s hard to do hands-on,” she admits.
Hanes also credits Thomas with reviving the local cattleman’s association. And the clinics Thomas offers to livestock producers have been well received. That level of service, Hanes says, is very important to farmers.

“I want state administrators to understand how important it is to those of us trying to stay in this business,” Hanes said.

Thomas grew up on a farm and is now married to a farmer, so she appreciates how important a livestock agent’s help can be. “I don’t see how anyone can be a good agent and stay in the office,” she said. “It’s not feasible in all cases, but it’s a disservice to livestock producers if Extension agents can’t get out to the farms.”

-N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at June 29, 2007 01:50 PM