Reporter: Ellie Mahan
August 10, 2022
The Hill County AgriLife Extension office, currently located at 126 South Covington Street in Hillsboro, is in the process of building a new facility next to the Exhibits Building at the Hill County Fairgrounds and is hoping to be moved in by Thanksgiving 2022.
The Extension office offers a variety of services and programs, ranging from 4-H to cooking classes, and the new building and location will allow these programs to expand.
Hill County 4-H, one of the many programs the AgriLife Extension office oversees, has grown over the past five years. In that amount of time, the membership in the Hill County 4-H program has increased from 114 members to 216 members, and leaders at the Extension office hope to see the growth continue after the move to the new and improved location.
The new building is intended to help the AgriLife Extension office better carry out one of its missions, connecting with youth. In addition to the traditional livestock competitions associated with 4-H, other areas Hill County 4-H focuses on include shooting sports, equine, fishing, robotics, fashion and food nutrition. The programs introduce children who are not in 4-H to the world of agriculture through curriculum enrichment.
Hill County Extension Agent and County Coordinator of the Extension Office Zach Davis said that he is looking forward to hitting the ground running upon moving into the new location.“I think there will be a renewed energy from folks who know about and have heard about it,” Davis said. “We are excited to get there and get settled in and get rolling.”
The Extension office also educates people on financial literacy, the importance of water, agricultural awareness and career exploration in agriculture. Rachel Esquivel, a Hill County Extension agent who teaches courses on family and community health, teaches people about chronic diseases, how to cook well with diabetes and how to manage diabetes. She also teaches culinary classes for youth and adults.
Davis stated that Esquivel has been an asset to the team, and her ability to speak Spanish fluently has helped reach a population the Extension office was not able to reach before. Davis also praised two other Hill County Extension agents for their service to the community: Tyler Mays, who specializes in Integrated Pest Management and Angie Nors, who specializes in 4-H and youth development.
Davis described the robust Master Gardeners program in Hill County and stated that the group will have a hand in the beautification of the Extension office’s new building. “They’re actually going to put their knowledge to work for the county, and they’re in the process of designing the landscape that will go out there,” Davis said.
The Extension office’s new building is set to contain a meeting room for education purposes, a kitchen area, a better designed and larger training area, office spaces with an improved layout and a climate-controlled shop that farmers can use to store equipment.
The Extension office plans to create a rainwater harvesting system. Davis said, “We will harvest rainwater off of the roof and then utilize that for the landscape. That will be something new and educational that we can showcase to the public.”
The new AgriLife Extension office will have easy access to the Exhibits Building, and there are plans for a sidewalk between the two. According to County Judge Justin Lewis, the Exhibits Building, located at 205 Stadium Drive, has been a huge part of Hill County’s capital projects over the last several years. The county took it over from Hillsboro ISD, making multiple improvements and alterations since then so that it could be used for not only the Hill County Fair but also large meetings and other education opportunities.
The Extension office’s new building will have a meeting room that seats 50, and if more space is needed, the Exhibits Building, which seats up to 500, can be utilized. Lewis sees the Exhibits Building as a resource for the Extension office. He stated, “Having that facility right there where it is easy for them to use will hopefully allow them to expand their programs and bring more people in.”
Davis said that he and other Hill County Extension Agents do a great deal of research projects. He said that when new agriculture technology comes out, the Hill County Extension office gets a call from College Station sharing news about the latest and greatest equipment. The ongoing positive rapport Hill County has with leaders in College Station helps maintain the county’s reputation for having innovative growers who seek out the best technology.
Davis said, “We are a huge agriculture-based county, so the brand new building emphasizes, promotes and advocates for agriculture. It’s a win win.”
Lewis emphasized the pivotal role that agriculture plays in the county’s economy, its history and its identity. “Texas depends on our agriculture folks, our farmers, our ranchers, to provide for day-to-day needs,” Lewis said. “Agriculture has historically been a huge part of our county, and I think it is going to be a huge part of our future.”
Lewis also said, “Hill County is growing rapidly. This allows us to expand our ability to reach out to young people in our community and to expand the programs and services we can offer to the community. I’m just glad we were able to do this. The commissioners saw the value in this building, and I do appreciate that.”
Lewis stated that the new building will initiate a new beginning for the Extension office. He said, “We’re glad we’re able to partner with them and that they’re finally able to get the building they deserve.”