Katie Aschoff fully acknowledges she doesn’t have the typical background of somebody working in a Nebraska Extension office.
She wasn’t raised on a farm, she doesn’t have an animal background and after graduating from Wayne State College and she doesn’t plan on tackling an agriculture-related career. Actually, the soon-to-be junior plans on graduating with a master’s degree in music education and pursuing a college teaching career.
Although her background isn’t rooted in agriculture, Aschoff’s ability to learn quickly and attention to detail has made her an invaluable resource as an intern in the Butler County Nebraska Extension office over the course of the past two summers.
In summer 2017, Michael Rethwisch, former Butler County extension educator, reached out to Aschoff’s father to see if she or her brother would have interest in completing some work for the office.
“He knew that we were hard workers, knew that we were in college and that we were in the area,” she said. “He also knew that we needed a summer job. So he reached out to us and my brother already had an internship in Columbus, and so I took the job.”
The idea of working for Nebraska Extension piqued Aschoff’s interest because though she lives in the outskirts of David City, she admitted that prior to taking the internship her agricultural knowledge of the area was limited.
Almost immediately Aschoff got acclimated with working with corn and beans, taking measurements and tracking growth progress. Her findings played a role in crop treatment; plants were given certain nutrients based off of her findings, which had to be spot-on.
“The work is so tedious - it's the same measurements done consistently over the course of the summer, and if they aren't done carefully or consistently, then the whole experiment is wrong,” she said.
This year, Aschoff has taken on even more responsibility by heading up many of the 4-H-related tasks for this year’s Butler County Fair, running from July 17-22 at the Butler County Fairgrounds.
Beginning in late May, she started coordinating and helping with 4-H workshops and activities.
“I kind of go around and help out wherever I’m needed,” she said. “Just make sure everyone knows what they are doing and that they are keeping on track.”
Last summer, Aschoff said her work was much more hands on, however, this year she feels like her brain is working a little harder.
“Last year was a little harder with the physical work, not necessarily because it was super hard, but because it was out in the heat,” she said. “This time it’s a lot more mentally rigorous. But this is more fun because it’s more what I want to do in terms of education, just with teaching, so I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit.”
Katie Pleskac, extension educator in Butler County, said Aschoff has gone above and beyond in terms of fulfilling her internship duties.
“Katie has done a great job; it’s been great watching her work with the kids,” Pleskac said. “This summer she planned one of our First Aid workshops and completely researched it and looked it up and did all the planning and teaching at that workshop,” she said.
Aschoff’s lack of agricultural experience hasn’t been an issue whatsoever, in fact, it’s her education background that’s made her such an asset to the office, Pleskac said.
“Knowing her experience working with kids is what drew us to her,” she said. “That music education, yes, it’s music, but there’s also that education piece, and that ties in with what we are doing with 4-H, so that also drew us to her resume.”
Although Aschoff doesn’t plan on having an Ag-related career, she also isn't planning on completely walking away from some of her newfound interests.
“I think it would be interesting if I could find a way to volunteer for 4-H in the future,” she said. “I think 4-H is just an awesome program; it’s just so much more than I thought when I first came into it.”
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org