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by Mark Cheffey
Marion County’s new 4-H youth specialist took office just in time for the busy fair season, but is uniquely prepared to take on the challenge.
Russell Schleiermacher, who started May 1 as the field specialist in 4-H youth development for Marion, Ralls and Pike counties, is a Marion County native, who grew up on the family farm and graduated from Marion County R-II School in 1978 before going to college and embarking on a 21-year career in education.
“I’m familiar with a lot of people in the whole county,” Schleiermacher said, noting those personal connections are a key in his efforts to work with the county 4-H council and the numerous clubs, as well as preparing for the upcoming fair.
That’s important, he said, as he continues to introduce himself to people and organizations in the county.
“I’m going to a lot of meetings and trying to make contact with all of the various organizations in the county,” Schleiermacher said.
Yet, he said his focus is on youth.
“I’m representing Missouri University as an employee, and my position is basically for the kids,” he said.
And, right now, 4-H and FFA youth are continually coming to his office in the Marion County Courthouse bringing their registration paperwork for participating in the Marion County Junior Fair.
“It will be here before we know it,” he said, noting all that paperwork has to be entered into a computer data base so that everything runs smoothly during the fair which starts July 23 with a trap shooting event and climaxes with the 4-H/FFA livestock sale Saturday, Aug. 5.
“This is a very busy time right now,” Schleiermacher said, noting that he is hopeful of adding some help very soon.
Applications are being accepted right now to fill a full-time assistant youth specialist for Marion County, who would help take the load off for Schleiermacher.
“Fortunately, I have assistants in Ralls and Pike counties right now,” he said. “They are doing a lot of work. Doing all I’m doing and more in preparations for the fairs.
And those fairs are about to hit in quick succession starting with the Ralls County Fair July 13 and followed by the one in Pike County which then overlaps with the one in Marion County.
Schleiermacher said part of his desire to take on the position was due to his own connection with 4-H as a member of a club led by his uncle, Dale Drebenstedt.
“I attended the fair when it was downtown,” he said, recalling how Palmyra’s Main Street was filled with the carnival and the side streets had all the booths and livestock pens.
With his experience working on the farm, Schleiermacher went on to what is now Truman State University where he earned an undergraduate degree in education and immediately got his first experience teaching, both as an undergraduate and a graduate at the university for a brief time.
He then went on to teach vocational education and even agriculture at various locations including Mexico, Mo., Moberly and Carrolton, Ill., for a total of 21 years, while also earning two master’s degrees before coming back to Marion County to work in the private sector including nine-and-a-half years with Heimer Construction.
Then, his service on the Marion County Extension Council led him to apply for the youth specialist position he now holds.
“Education has always been my commitment,” Schleiermacher said, expressing praise for what FFA and 4-H are able to provide for youth, but noted 4-H allows children to get attuned at a younger age.
That is especially important now and in the future as the agriculture community continues to evolve to embrace STEM.
“Which has interesting categories for kids to choose from,” he said, noting it also makes things more challenging in that people are needed with expertise in those areas.
Schleiermacher said he has ideas for new ways to address such challenges and is excited to work with the 4-H youth council and the community in developing them.
“I’m going to enjoy what happens in the future here,” he said.
Schleiermacher lives on the family farm he grew up on and has three grown children, two boys and a girl.
While growing up, he said he developed a love for the outdoors and continues his passion for hunting and fishing.
He said he is a devotee of bow hunting, having been involved with a bow hunting organization in Moberly.