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Hannah Nordby (IFYE)

Adams County's new Extension agent settles in after exchange program

HETTINGER, N.D. — Hannah Nordby graduated from the University of Wyoming in May 2018. But she didn't settle immediately into the workforce.

Instead, Nordby went to Taiwan and Thailand as part of IFYE, a youth exchange program rooted in agriculture and 4-H. Now Adams County's new North Dakota State University Extension agent, Nordby learned about the universality of agriculture and humanity during the program.

IFYE originally was the "International Farm Youth Exchange" and later the "International Four-H Youth Exchange" before becoming just IFYE. Founded after World War II, IFYE has sought throughout its history to spread greater international understanding and cooperation.

For Nordby, the exchange program taught that "people are people no matter where you're at." While she says she always knew that on some level, it wasn't until she saw the struggles and successes of people on the other side of the world that it really made sense.

"It just didn't connect with me until I was over there," she says.

Agriculture in Taiwan and Thailand both feature fruit and vegetable production, as well as rice.

"I learned so much about greenhouse production," Nordby says.

She also learned about how some of the problems farmers in the U.S. face are similar to problems in other parts of the world. In Taiwan, it's difficult to become a farmer because of the high cost of land, Nordby says. And in both countries, farmers are aging, fewer young people are coming back to the farm and farmers are having trouble making ends meet.

On the more positive side, Nordby says she learned how passionate farmers in Taiwan and Thailand are and that they are asking how to best feed a growing population.

"That's a question they're asking in Taiwan and Thailand as well," she says. "It's such a daunting idea, but it's a lot less overwhelming, at least for me, to tackle some of the issues that we need to overcome in agriculture knowing there's people around the world that are getting up and doing the same thing every day."

It was during her exchange trip that Nordby interviewed for the position as Adams County agent.

Nordby grew up on a ranch near Amidon, N.D., and was active in 4-H, serving both as a North Dakota State 4-H Ambassador and as a volunteer in Slope County. During her own 4-H years, she traveled to Adams County to compete in livestock judging.

"The community is kind of familiar to me," she says.

Nordby continues to settle into her new job, which so far has consisted of a lot of getting ready for the Adams County Fair, the first week in August. In early July, Norby was planning a bit of a road trip with a state 4-H ambassador from the county to get out and meet 4-H members from across the county as they prepare for the fair.