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Jeff Semler - Extension educator helps farmers, others

April 23, 2006|By TARA REILLY

Sometimes, residents bring snakes to the Washington County Agricultural Extension Office.

Other days, it's weeds or insects such as stink bugs, ladybugs, termites or ants.

One of the most unusual insects brought in was a pseudoscorpion.

"They're very small and most people never see them," said Jeff Semler, extension educator of agricultural and natural resources for the Washington County Cooperative Extension Service at the county Agricultural Education Center.

Semler, who lives in Clear Spring, said people are curious about what they find near their homes, and the center is a place where they can find out.

But while people like to know the names of snakes or insects they find, Semler's job is about more than creatures that crawl or slither.

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He also is responsible for educating farmers, homeowners, children or any resident on a variety of topics, ranging from building a chicken house to raising sheep.

"We're not selling you anything," Semler said. "We're giving you information."

Semler speaks to classes, at workshops, to different groups and does personal consultations to educate the public about agriculture.

"I like working with people," Semler said. "There is no typical day. Every day brings something different."

Semler began working for the Maryland Cooperative Extension in Baltimore County in 1988.

He moved to the Harford County, Md., office in 1991, before coming to the Washington County office in 1996.

Semler, a native of Washington County, holds a bachelor's degree in animal science from West Virginia University and a master's degree from the University of Connecticut.

Semler said he always knew he wanted some type of job in agriculture, a field that he described as a passion.

While he wasn't raised on a farm, he always had livestock as a child.

The same holds true for Semler today.

"We don't make a living at it," he said. "We raise beef for our freezer and eggs for the table."

Semler said he wouldn't mind owning a small farm and milking 40 cows a day, but that probably isn't realistic.

Semler said the county is losing dairy farms and that it's hard to make a living unless the farm is large.

Washington County has about 150 dairy farms. The county has lost about 50 since 2000. Still, Semler said the county has the second highest number of dairy farms in Maryland.

He said growth, as a result of the county's proximity to large cities, has played a large role in the decline of dairy farms.

"That certainly has had a great impact on the change," Semler said.

Q&A

Name - Jeff Semler

Address - Clear Spring

Date of birth - Dec. 22, 1959

Occupation - Extension educator of agricultural and natural resources for the Washington County Cooperative Extension Service

Most notable achievement - Marrying his wife, Kerri, and raising two daughters, Jessica, 20, and Kayla, 18.

Who is the person you most admire and why? - Christ, because He's my Savior.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Who gave it to you? - My father always taught to do your best and be honest and fair, and the rest will take care of itself.

What is the next goal you would like to achieve? - I'd really like to make an impact on farming profitability so we can keep farms in Washington County, keep open space and keep the county's character and culture.

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