Stop in to the University of Minnesota’s Brown County Extension office in Sleepy Eye and meet Abby Schwab and Julie Dempster.

Stop in to the University of Minnesota’s Brown County Extension office in Sleepy Eye and you’re likely to be greeted by a couple of smiling faces; one you might recognize and another that’s brand new.

New 4-H Coordinator

Abigail Schwab is the new Brown County 4-H Program Coordinator. She lives in New Ulm with husband Brian and their two sons, Raymond, age 4 and Dominick, 2.

“My past experience includes working directly with youth as well as collaboration with professionals throughout Brown County,” said Abby. “In past positions, I dedicated time working specifically with youth employment and training programs, as well as developed programs to reduce substance abuse in the county.”

These positions included recruiting and supervising youth and volunteers as well as developing and maintaining relationships with many professionals in Brown County, including elected officials.

Abby has collaborated and worked with individuals with the Optimist Club of New Ulm to create, organize, and plan events for the new Youth POWER group, has done policy work with the Brown County Free Fair Board, was a member of Girl Scouts in her youth, and recently participated in the Bridging Brown County Leadership Program.

“I am excited to be taking on this new role as the 4-H Coordinator and having the opportunity to work with youth, parents, volunteers, and community members!” Abby said.

As the 4-H Program Coordinator, Abby will lead and manage the full range of the 4-H Youth Development program in Brown County. She is the steward of program development, human resources, and financial aspects of the 4-H Youth Development program in the county.

Brown county has eight 4-H clubs that meet on a monthly basis.

4-H activities are open to youth in kindergarten through one year past high school. Participants can design their own activities or take part in a structured one. The 4-H learning model “learn by doing” teaches life skills such as problem solving, decision making, coping, communicating and teamwork.

4-H operates under the larger framework of University of Minnesota Extension.

Extension is the major outreach arm of the University, with offices in every county in the state. It “extends” University knowledge to people and communities.

The goal is in helping the public inform their decisions with relevant research: a key role in the University of Minnesota’s mission of “bringing Minnesotans together to build a better future through University science-based knowledge, expertise and training.”

Extension is centered around four core topics: Youth Development, Family Development, Community Vitality, as well as Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

The work is a two-way street. Faculty and staff listen and provide a conduit back to the University from Minnesota’s farmers, youth and communities so that the University can better serve their needs.

New Extension support staff

Julie Dempster is the new support staff for Brown County’s Extension office.

She serves as initial point of contact for the office, with the ability to connect residents and their questions to the appropriate University resources. Many questions in Brown County relate to Agriculture and Youth Development, but programs and information from all the Extension Centers are available to residents.

Julie describes a recent example. Thanks to this month’s snow totals, many homes in Brown County have ice dams on their roofs.

“Sure, you can search Google for answers for how to deal with that, but have you tried searching the Extension website? We have an article for dealing with and preventing ice dams,” Julie said. “The great thing about information from the Extension is that it is backed up by University research and is specific to Minnesota.”

The Extension website is central to Julie’s job. Whether residents call or stop by, she has University resources at her fingertips. Anything ranging from home care, finances and parenting, to community issues such as small business development and housing studies, can be accessed.

“Of course the website is accessible to everyone, but often people just need another person’s perspective,” Julie said. “Deep down that’s my real job, to provide that human connection.”

Julie is from a dryland wheat farming family “so far west in Nebraska that I actually attended high school in the state of Wyoming.” She and her husband, David, have two children, Brynnae, 21 and Ethan, 18, who both live and work in Mankato.

“David and I have a home in Sleepy Eye,” said Julie, “and, once this snow clears, you might find us working in our yard, walking the dog or bicycling around town. I love being able to walk to work, walk to the library, walk to the lake. Yes, even in the snow!”

New Office Hours

Extension office hours are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., staffed by Julie.

You can find Abby in the office typically Mondays through Thursdays, 8 to 4:30, but with extra meetings you’ll likely find her anywhere from county commissioner to extension committee meetings, as well as dropping in on club gatherings.

The Brown County Extension office is located at 300 2nd Ave. SW in Sleepy Eye and can be found online at extension.umn.edu. You can reach Abby at aschwab@umn.edu, Julie at jdempste@umn.edu or call them both at 507-794-7993.