GREENVILLE — Asked to fill a need, Sam Custer, OSU Extension Educator for Darke County, was ready to help serve as the interim Assistant Director of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) for Ohio State University Extension starting March 1.
The interim role has Custer serving several roles, including assuming supervision of ANR state staff and participation in program development, among many other duties. However, as for many, the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) arrived and changed everything in regards to the temporary position.
“That first week was somewhat normal, week two of that really changed everything,” said Custer as OSU had to make a quick determination on how to keep both the staff and the communities they serve safe from the virus. So, almost two weeks ago, they went into a work-from-home mode that includes all the university minus “critical services” such as medical.
For Custer, his day begins in his home office around 6:30 a.m. and may not end until after 10 p.m. as close to a hundred-plus people are relying on his guidance during this challenging, unchartered time.
“It’s pretty intense,” said Custer, explaining how they “learned how to do things differently on the fly.”
For example, earlier that day, Custer, along with 150 other individuals, held a virtual meeting on direct marketing of food from farmer’s markets to local produce growers.
He notes working with an amazing team who take what positives they can from the situation. All on a tighter budget, too, as Ohio State Governor Mike DeWine announced only a week ago that the government will tighten its belt, which includes an immediate hiring freeze.
For Custer, what had been a six month or so interim position could be longer, but will return full time to the Darke County position once the Assistant Director position has been filled. Until then, from an ag perspective, he states, “I think we are all looking forward to getting some sunshine later this week, we start making that transition from late winter into spring. Start drying things out, farmers getting into the field — it’s going to be a positive experience.”
The OSU Extension helps all Ohioans build better lives, better businesses, and better communities with research-based expertise. While a return to normal operations is unknown at this time, the Darke County OSU Extension office is available for assistance or to answer a question via phone at (937) 548-5215 or visit their website at darke.osu.edu for more information.