Carroll County Extension welcomes new FCS agent
The Carroll County Cooperative Extension has a new face at the office.
Tamara Allen recently joined the extension office as the new family and consumer science (FCS) agent. Among her responsibilities, she said, will be working with families, organizing community service projects, doing programs with 4-H and holding nutrition, economic and financial fitness programs.
“I’m learning a whole lot every day,” Allen said.
Before working in the extension office, she said she taught in the classroom for 30 years.
“I taught in Lead Hill for five years,” she said. “From there, I went to Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, and I taught there for over 20 years.”
Allen said she moved back to Harrison to take care of her mom and dad, finishing out her teaching career at Harrison High School.
While retirement seemed natural after 30 years, she said she soon realized she wanted to do more.
“I started teaching at 20, so I was a young retiree and was very bored,” Allen said. “I did everything in my house I could and organized everything I could organize.”
She said some of the agents from local extension offices approached her about leading the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“It’s a really difficult part of the extension services,” she said, “because it’s almost an entity unto itself. You’re training your community how to eat healthy, when to eat and why you should eat better to change up your body.”
Allen said she has worked as the SNAP coordinator for the last three years and will continue leading the program as the FCS agent.
“One of the important things when getting into the extension service or any job you do is getting yourself invested in it and learning a lot,” she said. “I’ve been doing education programs in the county for SNAP. The kids call me ‘Tasty Tam,’ and I say my name means tasting up good nutrition habits.”
She said she thinks there is a great need for good nutrition in the school systems and the local community.
“I’m a wholehearted believer in it,” Allen said. “One of the things we’d like to put in eventually is some yoga programs and some ‘get fit’ programs. It’s not only the older age that needs it. The middle and younger ages need it, too.”
Allen said the extension office has also encouraged her to work on financial programs for both children and adults.
“We’ll be doing one financial program where you work with junior high and you also do a program with senior high,” she said, “to get them ready for financial things that they will be spending money on in their lifetime.”
Allen continued, “We’re also going to do a program with adults later on where we’ll talk about estate planning and investments. I know we have a lot of seniors in this area as well as upcoming adults who may be interested in learning more about how much money you need to save for your future and your retirement.”
There are several specialists with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, she said, who will visit Carroll County and provide the training to students.
In addition to her work as a teacher and the SNAP coordinator, Allen said she will bring her experience as a Master Gardener, farmer and grandmother into her role as the new FCS agent.
“I firmly believe that what comes from the ground is the way that you should produce it for your body,” she said, “so I do. When I go to farmers’ markets and things like that, a lot of times you’ll see me as a vendor, and I give out free samples of what’s coming out of the garden.”
The local farmers’ markets have provided a great way for her to meet other local farmers, she said.
Overall, Allen said she is excited to begin this new path in Carroll County.
“I’ve been around a lot over the state of Arkansas, and I’ve done a lot of different things,” she said, “but I am really enjoying the start of this.”
While Allen and her husband currently live in Harrison, she said they are looking to move to Carroll County, ideally somewhere by the water.
“We lived off DeGray Lake in Hot Springs, so we would like to live by the water again,” she said. “We loved it down there, and we love it up here.”