SIDNEY — After interviewing at eight different Farm Service Agencies in the state of Ohio, Shelby County was the top pick for new County Executive Director Annette M. Purkey.
Purkey, who has been with the Seneca County FSA office for 29 years as a program technician, entered the county operations training program to become a county executive director.
“When you enter the training, you don’t know where you’ll end up,” said Purkey. “There were eight openings in Ohio and two weeks ago, I did eight interviews.”
The training program, she said, was a seven-month commitment to learn everything she could to be a county executive director.
“We go to different counties for a two- to three-week period,” said Purkey, “and we concentrate on their program areas. The program got me out in the state where they have different emphasis of the programs.
“There are also different management styles and we learn from that,” she said. “We have tests at the end of each training session.”
Seneca County, she said, is a large county and the FSA office handles a large quantity of producer requests and needs throughout the year.
Purkey said she was impressed with the Shelby County community when she was here as part of her program training in June.
“There’s a good ag industry here,” said Purkey. “The industry is good and everyone works together.”
She said there’s a lot of similarities between Seneca County and Shelby County.
“The programs that the producers participate in are similar in both counties,” said Purkey. “We’re short staffed in Shelby County so one of my goals is to get another employee here to help ease the work load.
Purkey’s agricultural roots dates back to her childhood when she was raised on the family farm.
“I grew up in Kansas, Ohio,” said Purkey of her agricultural background. “I grew up in the country and after I got married, we also lived on a farm.
“In 1987, things were tough on the farm,” said Purkey. “Someone at church mentioned the opening.”
A stay-at-home mom, Purkey applied for the temporary position at the Seneca County FSA office 29 years ago. She was hired; the job turned into a permanent one, and here she is now ready to embark on a new career within the FSA.
She and her husband, Leon, farmed until 2002. They had a grain farm and grew soybeans, wheat and corn and also raised cattle, hogs and sheep. Her husband decided to change careers in 2002 and currently drives a truck for Menel Milking.
The agriculture industry, she said, has seen many changes since she started with the FSA.
“The farm operation sizes are bigger,” said Purkey. “they need to be bigger to maintain the farmer’s livelihood. The younger generation is stepping into the family business.
“The families are there to help the next generation coming into the business,” she said.
Technology is also changing how farmers/producers look at the business. Having GPS on tractors has changed and improved the ag industry.
“The producers are working smarter,” said Purkey. “We’re also seeing the producers who are 45 years and under have some degree from college. They are not afraid to use the new technology. They’re embracing it (technology).”
The Shelby County FSA office has been without an executive director since August when Latham Farley left to pursue other career opportunities. Purkey credits the staff for their outstanding service to the county’s producers during that time. Angie Neff was the acting director and she was assisted by employees Janelle Lowry and Amy Gehret.
“The staff here has done a great job in the absence of a county executive director,” said Purkey. “They continued to provide great service to the producers.”
Purkey said she wants to increase the participating number of producers who take advantage of the FSA programs.
“The county already has a large number of producers who do that,” said Purkey. “I want to continue to educate them on the programs that are available. There’s still a lot of producers who don’t know what’s available.”
The transition of having a new president and a new director of agriculture, should be a smooth one, said Purkey.
“The biggest change will be the new farm bill,” she said. “Agriculture has a big influence in the country. I think it (transition will go well and we’ll continue to provide benefits to the farmers.”
The local FSA office is governed by a county committee, which is composed of three members —
Chairman Larry Sprague, who represents Van Buren, Dinsmore and Jackson Townships; Ed Sanders, who represents McLean, Cynthian, Loramie, Turtle Creek and Washington Townships; and Brent Clinehens, who represents Franklin, Salem, Clinton, Perry, Orange and Green Townships. Jan Noah serves as the minority adviser to the County Committee. She does not have voting privileges but advises the COC if the situation arises. They help make decisions on how to apply for programs which can benefit the county’s producers. Purkey reports to them as the manager of the day-to-day operations of the service center and the employees.
“Larry (Sprague) was kind enough to give me a general driving tour of the county last Friday so I could become more familiar with the lay of the land. We stopped at a few of the out-laying agriculture business so I could introduce myself to them. It was a very positive experience,” said Purkey.
Purkey said she’s looking forward to the new job and the new responsibilities she now has.
“I have some big shoes to fill from all the people who went ahead of me in Shelby County,” said Purkey.
When she’s not busy at the FSA office, Purkey said her hobbies include yoga, reading and baking.
The couple plans to Shelby County in the near future. The relocation, she said, puts she and her husband of 34 years, closer to their daughter, who lives in Springboro. Their son resides in Brooklyn, New York. They have one grandchild, who is 15 months old.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.