For Michael R. Bell, joining the Carroll County Extension Agency is another step in an 11-year teaching career.
"I'm trying to bring new information to the dairy industry in this county," said Mr. Bell, who began work as a county agricultural extension agent July 1.
Mr. Bell, a former agricultural science teacher at Clatsop Community College in Oregon and at the University of Connecticut, most recently was director of the two-year agricultural technology program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
At the extension agency, he replaces Roberta Weber, who specialized in dairy management before resigning in late July 1993 to spend more time with her family. She had been on maternity leave since February 1993, said David Greene, county extension agent.
"I'm not saying I'm going to know all the answers," Mr. Bell said, noting that he has the resources to find them. "If I haven't heard all the questions, I can't be sure I'll know all the answers. That was the message I always tried to get through to my students."
Mr. Bell's teaching experience was one of the things that placed him ahead of other candidates for the position, which will include disseminating information on crop management, water quality and nutrient management, Mr. Greene said.
"He has a vast experience in a wide variety of topics," Mr. Greene said. "He made a presentation, as all the candidates did, and did an excellent job. He's an excellent teacher."
The new extension agent's educational background is perfect for the job, Mr. Greene said.
Mr. Bell, 41, received an associate of arts degree in animal science from Modesto Junior College in California in 1976, a bachelor of science degree in animal science from California State University, Fresno in 1980 and a master's degree in dairy science from the University of Illinois in 1983.
"If you were to write a course schedule for a position in extension, it would read like a list of all the courses he took," Mr. Greene said. "With extension today, you don't have one, sole responsibility.
"There's farm financial management, [animal] nutrition, reproductive and health -- there's a broad array of things you have to be familiar with."
Mr. Bell said that as perfect as his resume is for this job, he had not planned to go in that direction.
"Each move was an opportunity that we [family] thought would be beneficial and good for us," Mr. Bell said. "I just took each opportunity as it came along."
Mr. Bell grew up in rural Livermore, Calif. His family was not involved in farming, he said. In fact, his guidance counselors encouraged him not to attend college when he graduated from high school in 1970.
After working in Montana for a while, Mr. Bell decided he would like to try college, but he was drafted into the Marine Corps before he was able to save enough money to attend Modesto.
"I continued to observe who was doing what and who was getting where," Mr. Bell said. "I noticed that those people who had that little piece of paper were getting a lot of opportunities and able to go a lot of places."
Mr. Bell praised the encouragement and support of his professors and said, "I want to give something back. I want to make a similar opportunity available to others."