Generation Z is coming of age, and they’re finding their places in the workforce. The latest newcomer locally is Emma Severns, a 22-year-old taking the reins as the new University of Minnesota Extension educator for Nicollet and Sibley counties.
Like most out of college, Severns wasn’t certain where she’d find her first career-type job. While the Extension educator post is a prominent one for a younger person, she has the background to fit in.
“It came as a little bit of a surprise, but I thought with my experiences, my background, my education that this really did fit my passions and interests, so I thought it was a really great opportunity,” she said.
Severns, who has two bachelor’s degrees in animal science and agricultural communication from the University of Minnesota, got her foot in the door with Extension after college, working in Blue Earth County 4-H and then as a natural resource intern for St. Louis County.
“I got to make a lot of connections with a lot of people within the organization,” she said. “I really worked hard to do some extra things in my position that I think impressed some people.”
She eventually was pointed toward an interim position for Nicollet County, not too far from the hobby farm in Good Thunder, where she grew up and where her parents, Brian and Kathy, still live. Until the pandemic calms down, Severns will stay with her parents on the farm and commute to her office in St. Peter.
“I think it helps, too, that I’m local,” she said of the new job. “I know the community, the agricultural side of things in this area, so that helps.”
Southern Minnesota Extension Regional Director Bonnie Christiansen, who had a hand in hiring Severns, first on an interim basis and then full-time, said the team was impressed with what she brought to the table.
“She had experience with Extension in the past, and she was acting as the interim Extension educator as we filled the position, and we were really happy with the skills that she would bring to the job,” Christiansen said.
She added, “These days, we are hiring younger people in this position, so it’s not that out of the ordinary.”
Severns brings an energy job that can be felt in conversations. She is excited for the work and hopeful of making an impact in the agricultural community and beyond.
“What I usually tell people is that, in my position, I provide university resources to the local community about agriculture. I also work with local farmers, getting them to resources and answering those questions. I also answer the questions of the local community — gardening, weeds, spraying, whatever questions they might have. I also plan and execute educational programs …,” Severns said.
She believes in what Extension does.
“Some people maybe don’t’ think that Extension is so important these days, because there are others that people can go to, but the information we provide is unbiased, it’s university-research backed, and it’s a free resource for anyone,” she said. “Anyone that lives in Nicollet County, whether in town or in the country, can use it. We just have a really great, knowledgeable team of people that can give a lot of information. We provide this unbiased information that helps them succeed.”
While Severns grew up nearby, she still has plenty to learn about the local landscape. She’s well aware of the heavy crop and swine production in the area, as well as the thriving master gardener program in Nicollet County. But she still needs to get to know individual farms and people, and she’s working on that out of the gate.
“I already reached out to some people that have been in this position in the past and other colleagues from the area, and they’ve given me more people to reach out to,” she said. “So that’s what I’m working on now, is reaching out to more people, and going out and visiting farms and getting to know their farms.”
Severns has been involved in agriculture her entire life, whether raising or showing animals through 4-H, learning production in FFA, selling chickens to earn money in high school, or getting a full education in the field at college. Now, she’s taking what she’s learned (and will continue to learn) and sharing it with a local audience.
“There are endless opportunities in this job, and I like educating people about agriculture and livestock, and I like helping people get an education that helps them succeed,” she said. “That is what I really enjoy.”