As a third-grader, the sheep she was showing in 4-H dragged her all around the show pen at the Johnson County Fairgrounds.
As a high school student, Heather Dougherty showed swine in 4-H and interned at the Johnson County extension office.
She grew up raising animals at her family’s farm on State Road 44 in Franklin, helping with the cattle at her “Grandma Moos’” house. She still helps out at her family’s greenhouse in Franklin.
Dougherty said 4-H gave some of her best childhood memories. She said she wants to help children in the county make some 4-H memories of their own.
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Today, Dougherty starts her new job as the 4-H youth extension educator for Johnson County.
“I want to provide the opportunities I had growing up in Johnson County,” she said.
A large part of her job will be organizing 4-H throughout the year, signing kids up for the same type of activities she was raised participating in.
As a high school and college student, Dougherty dreamed of when she could be an extension educator. Today, she starts her dream job.
“This is always something I wanted to do, I just took a different route to get there,” she said.
Dougherty graduated from Franklin Community High School in 2007, then Purdue University.
For the past five years she has been an FFA teacher. Four of those years were spent at Franklin Community High School.
Part of the reason she decided to study agriculture at Purdue was to help educate all people about the field.
She remembers seeing misconceptions from Facebook and social media posts about all aspects of agriculture. One claimed that shearing sheep hurt the animal by cutting off their skin.
“There is a lot more work to do in that field,” she said.
Straight out of college, Dougherty decided to begin teaching.
She wanted to make sure she had a decent job to begin paying off her student loans and to help gain experience working with both students and agriculture before trying to become an extension educator, she said.
In her four years at Franklin, she and another teacher helped grow the program.
Two soil judging teams have gone to national competitions and she became certified to teach special curriculum that has teachers using STEM-like lessons to teach agriculture.
She wants all students to understand the impact of agriculture in their life and to be able to trace their food and other necessities back to a farm, she said.
“It is the facet of everyone’s lives,” she said. “Everything on you is a product of agriculture.”
Before students get to a new teacher at the high school, Dougherty will be marketing 4-H to elementary school students with hopes of growing Johnson County’s program.
Being at the fair and organizing the local 4-H program is a major part of her job.
“A lot of what people think is 4-H, that is a big part of the job,” extension director Sarah Hanson said. “There is more to the extension office and more to that position.”
Dougherty’s job goes beyond the fair.
Part of her job will be to evaluate and plan programming, such as the Captain Cash financial literacy program offered to elementary school students in the county.
The youth extension educator also runs programs for youth in gardening and at Girls Inc.
One of Dougherty’s goals is to fill up the 4-H buildings at the fair with projects.
“I really want to up the program to get more kids interested in 4-H,” she said.
Besides seeking more students to be involved in 4-H, Dougherty wants to streamline the process for members, she said.
For example, she wants to reduce the amount of paperwork students have to fill out when turning in their 4-H projects.
“The more (paperwork) kids have to fill out, the less projects they will do,” she said.
Youngsters can enroll in 4-H until Jan. 15.
Enrollment can be done at in.4honline.com.