They say time flies when you’re having fun. That certainly seems to be the case as I reflect on these past 6.5 years as your Extension Agent for family and consumer sciences. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Ellis County and the Hays community — and for the past year as part of the Cottonwood Extension District — but the time has come to say farewell. I will be retiring on May 31 after 39 years as a K-State Research and Extension agent in four counties in northwest and southwest Kansas.

As I sit in my office for the last full week and reflect on all I’ve done over the years, it’s the people and events of Extension work that come to mind. It’s all of you who have captured a place in my heart.

Thank you for allowing me to become involved with you and your lives. I hope your interaction with K-State Research and Extension and the Cottonwood Extension District has made some small difference for you — made things easier, less confusing, more empowering. I thought for my final column, I’d share some of my favorite phone calls, office visits and situations of these past years as an Extension agent and tell you about my retirement project for the future.

The first special situation that comes to mind is the call from a local mother who wanted to know if she could mail a bowl of potato salad to her daughter across the country. It seems the daughter was expecting a baby and craving her mother’s potato salad — and despite having Mom’s recipe, nothing she made tasted quite the same. We finally nixed the potato salad shipment due to the food safety concerns with a perishable food and a pregnant woman, but it was an interesting discussion and one that helped me see again the strength of family bonds.

Then there was the lady who called for instructions on how to can bear meat. It was the height of the Y2K scare and she said she planned to sustain her family on canned bear meat from her husband’s fall hunting trip. No, the family had never eaten canned bear meat before, and yes, I was able to provide the canning instructions, but I never heard whether the hunting expedition and the canning session were successful. Thankfully for all of us, the century rolled over without incident.

I also remember the first day at one of my county fairs. An irritated mom demanded that her son’s arts and crafts entry be judged by a different judge. It seems she didn’t like the red ribbon the entry had received. I gently tried to explain we hire the judges for their expertise and while we might not always agree with the outcome, that day it was the judge’s opinion which counted. About five days later the same mom came to my office to apologize. She said there had been a death in the family and she was not at her best at fair time. Over the years I’ve learned that none of us are at our best at fair time — and given about five days, most people and situations regain a more balanced perspective.

My time as an Extension agent has been full of interesting and wonderful experiences — from taking a leave of absence from my first county to travel to the Philippines as a 4-H exchange delegate, to judging countless foods exhibits and cooking contests. I’ve watched technology change from manual typewriters and duplicating machines to wi-fi and the internet cloud, and I’ve taught more Extension educational programs than I can ever count, including a nutrition class presented through three different language interpreters in the same room at the same time one day in Garden City.

In order to give back for a career I’ve loved, I have compiled a “best of the best” collection which includes 90 recipes and 80 news columns from 39 years in Extension. It is available in downloadable PDF Portfolio format for a freewill donation to the Kansas 4-H Foundation at www.kansas4hfoundation.org/beechrecipes. All proceeds will benefit the Kansas 4-H Foundation and the four counties where I worked (Hodgeman, Stevens, Finney and Ellis.) I receive nothing but satisfaction from this project — 100-percent of the proceeds will support Extension and 4-H programs in Kansas.

I’ve loved getting to know all the individuals and families involved in Extension programs across Kansas, and I thank everyone for the friendship and support you’ve given to me and my family over the years. Good luck and many blessings to all of you. Thanks, and farewell!

Linda Beech has been a family and consumer sciences agent based in Ellis County for 6.5 years.