It’s been more than a career — for Linda Beech, it was a dream come true. She had known since childhood that she wanted to become an agent for Kansas State University’s Research and Extension program.

She did just that, and will retire June 1 — 39 years to the day she began her career.

“It’s just what I have always loved,” she said. “It has been a labor of love and I’ve been grateful to have the opportunity to do so.”

Beech has been a family and consumer sciences agent in Ellis County for the last 6.5 years, having previously worked in the same capacity at Hodgeman, Stevens and Finney counties. Her career began on June 1, 1979, in Hodgeman County, shortly after she graduated from K-State.

Her college degrees were designed specifically to help reach her goals of becoming a successful Extension agent, with an emphasis on both food and nutrition and family economics.

Beech grew up in 4-H — a family tradition that dates back to grandparents and continued with her children. It was that early exposure to Extension activities and programs that helped set her career path at such a young age.

“I’m like a third-generation 4-Her. My grandmother was the 4-H community leader for my dad’s club. My dad … was a 4-H leader for my club,” Beech said. “And I was a 4-H leader for my kids’ club. We’re a generational 4H family and Extension users and believers.”

During her time in Hays, Beech was well-known for hosting a variety of educational programs and writing how-to columns for local media. Those are the things she said she’s going to miss the most, besides the people she has become acquainted with over the years.

“I will miss the ability to interact with all those wonderful people who have turned to Extension programming over the years,” she said. “The people, the audiences, the learners are always the most fun, and the most important.”

Beech said she isn’t yet sure where retirement will take her, but her family hopes to stay in Kansas. She’ll keep plenty busy this summer, as her daughter is to be married in August. And she won’t completely be leaving Extension work, having already signed up to be a volunteer judge at county fairs.

She’s quick to admit she has seen many changes during her four-decade career -- she didn’t even have a computer on her desk for the first 16 years of her job, she said. She also remembers helping educate rural Kansas residents about how to use a microwave oven after the first popular home model was introduced in the late 1960s.

“I did my senior project at K-State on understanding and using a microwave oven,” Beech said. “What is it, how does it work, what do you do with it? Think how much that has changed. Now microwaves are an integral part of any home kitchen.”

She also has seen several changes during her tenure in Ellis County, most notably the formation of an Extension district combining Ellis and Barton counties last year. That change actually delayed her retirement plans for another year, as she wanted to help make sure the transition went smoothly, Beech said.

And while she is preparing to pack up her office and move out, the county-owned building at 601 Main is in the process of ongoing renovations.

To commemorate her retirement and her long career, Beech has compiled an e-book project compiling many of her favorite highlights. “Living Well: Feeding Body, Mind and Heart” is available online at kansas4hfoundation.org/beechrecipes.

The collection includes 90 recipes in nine categories, including county fair winners and potluck favorites, and 80 news columns in eight categories. The PDF download is available for a freewill donation, which will benefit the Kansas 4-H Foundation and the four counties where Beech worked.

“This career of mine is all I have ever wanted to do,” Beech said. “I am so grateful there were people who gave me that opportunity, that I have created a project in order to give back.”