Erica Brewster, Family Living Agent for Oneida County UW-Extension, has assumed the role of department head for the county office following the departure of Community Economic and Natural Resources Agent, Dan Kuzlik.
“I am excited about this new opportunity to expand my current work within the Oneida County UW-Extension office,” said Brewster, “Dan’s strong leadership role in the department established a foundation for identifying and responding to local needs withquality programs, and I plan to continue to build on our team’s commitment to excellence in community-based education and support for all residents.”
Brewster, a native of Three Lakes, has served as the Family Living educator since February of 2010. She and Jim Winkler, associate professor for Youth Development and Oneida County 4-H coordinator, continue to provide educational programming support in their areas as the county and state plan to recruit a new Community Economic and Natural Resources agent. The Family Living program provides direct education with adult life skills classes and staff capacity building at Frederick Place Homeless Shelter, Forward Service Job Center, and in the Oneida County Jail, and parenting classes in collaboration with the Family Resource Connection. The program also supports poverty education programs and the Master Food Preserver volunteer program. The Youth Development program reaches out to area youth through 4-H and Teens Active In Government (TAG), and targets underage first time offenders through the Teen Court early intervention program.
The Oneida County UW-Extension office also houses the local financial education non-profit, Northwoods Saves, and the federal grant-funded Wisconsin Nutrition Education Program (WNEP). The WNEP program has a half-time coordinator and two nutrition educators who work with low-income audiences to improve food quality and nutrition education. The educators provide nutrition education in schools with 50 percent or more of student enrollment eligible for free and reduced school lunch. The WNEP program supported the development of the community garden that provides fresh produce to the Rhinelander Area Food Pantry, and the development of the Backpack program that provides selected low-income students with backpacks of food for the weekend.
Oneida County UW-Extension and Oneida County Land and Water Conservation departments are currently the only departments consolidated under the Oneida County efficiency plan. Both provide a variety of educational and natural resource support programs for community members andlandowners. Included in the Oneida County Land and Water Department is the Oneida County Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) program, which is managed by afull time coordinator who oversees the implementation of the DNR AIS grant and coordinates the work of three summer AIS assistants who are often seen at area boat landings with the Clean Boats, Clean Waters inspection program. In addition, the AIS program performs educational AIS outreach, supports area lake groups, and initiates new AIS projects throughout the year.
The Land and Water Conservation Department provides a county cost-share program through funding from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to help landowners restore or manage their property, including lakefront and shorelines, for conservation or sustainable agricultural purposes. The Oneida County Land and Water Resource Management Plan outlines the goals for natural resource management in Oneida County and outlines the activities that work towards natural resource protection in the county. Copies of the plan are available from the Land and Water Conservation Department or on its department page on the Oneida County government website.
The mission of the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension is to develop practical educational programs tailored to local needs, based on knowledge and research from the University of Wisconsin system. Faculty educators in Oneida County provide programming in the areas of Family Living, Youth Development and 4-H, and Community Economic Development and Natural Resources.
In addition to these program areas, Oneida County UW-Extension support staff and summer assistants provide educational outreach and connections to state specialist resources for horticulture, soil and home water testing, and support for organizations including the Master Gardeners of the North, Oneida County Lakes and Rivers Association (OCLRA), the Northwoods Entrepreneurs Club, the Oneida County Fair, and the Oneida County Beekeepers. With the retirement of Jonna Jewell, who served 30 years as full-time support staff, Oneida County UW-Extension also announces the hiring of an 80 percent support staff, Anna Gauthier, to continue providing administrative and clerical support to these community-based programs.
For more information, visit oneida.uwex.edu, or call (715) 365-2750.