After growing up on farm, educator runs after-school program
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
Grace Wittman is giving back after reaping the benefits of 11 years of 4-H programs during her youth.
In her role as Cassia County extension educator for food safety, health and nutrition and 4-H youth development for the past six years, her duties include running a 4-H after-school program for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students.
Before taking the position, she spent a couple of years with the Idaho State 4-H Youth Development program at Moscow running the 4-H Operation Military Kids program for youth who had a family member deployed overseas.
Most of the 30 youngsters in her after-school program come in with no knowledge of 4-H, she said, but they soon get interested in the enrichment programs focused on science and technology, healthy living and cultural and visual arts.
While the extension office doesn't have the facilities to focus on agriculture, the program introduces youngsters to a broad array of topics and teaches 4-H principles.
Wittman "is a creative, energetic, young, 4-H development professional," said Arlinda Nauman, state 4-H director. "We're lucky to have her and hope to keep her a long time."
She has enhanced 4-H program resources through grants and has taken advantage of technology to develop her after-school program, Nauman said. In particular, Wittman is addressing childhood obesity, finding ways to get kids moving and teaching nutrition.
"She does an excellent job with her after-school program," said Tianna Fife, extension livestock specialist in Twin Falls County. "She brings a lot of enthusiasm, and she's always willing to work across disciplines."
Fife has worked with Wittman quite a bit, with Wittman carrying Fife's livestock-production work into food-safety programs.
Wittman values her ag and rural roots, she said. She grew up on the family farm in Paul, and put her share of sweat into the hoeing, spraying and moving water.
"It gave me a value for the land, how hard people have to work for what they have, and a respect for where food comes from and what it takes to feed the world," she said. "It gave me a firm standing in the life of agriculture and promoting it."
Her parents still have the farm in Paul, and her husband, Nicholas, grew up on a farm and is a crop consultant with Amalgamated Sugar Co. in its Twin Falls District.
"One day, we'd love to have some land and be able to do something," she said.
Young person in Ag
Grace Williams Wittman
University of Idaho extension educator, Cassia County
Food safety, youth development, health and nutrition
Husband: Nicholas Wittman
Children: Emma, 5, one on the way
Bachelor of Family Life Education, Master of Family Relations, University of Idaho
Affiliations: University of Idaho CALS Alumni and Friends board of directors, Magic Valley Alumni Association of University of Idaho; Mini-Cassia child protection team