REFUGIO – Candace Moeller has only been on the job since December 2016, but her presence as the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension agent for Refugio County has received national acclaim.
Moeller received the Achievement Award from the National Association (NACAA) of County Agricultural Agents during that organization’s 2020 annual meeting.
According to the NACAA, Moeller is “among the top 1 percent of the membership selected by peers and the director of the extension.
Although she was only 22 when she was hired for the post in Refugio County, her lifelong interest in agriculture, participation in showing animals as a member of Future Farmers of America as a youth and an internship with the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension office in DeWitt County helped prepare her for a leadership role in agriculture.
In 2015, she served an internship under the guidance of DeWitt County Extension Agent Anthony Netardus, who said he realized from her dedication, thirst for knowledge and demeanor that Moeller was destined for success.
“I have been the county extension agent in DeWitt County for 25 years, and Candace grew up in the county,” Netardus said. “I know her and her family well. She participated in FFA instead of 4-H, but they are very similar organizations. She did well in school and showed mainly pigs and broilers when she was in school.”
“During her senior year at Texas A&M she interned in our office for two to three months. She was a jewel to work with and she was a sponge when it came to soaking up information and finding out everything she could about how things are done in agriculture and at the extension office.
“During her internship she wanted to go everywhere I went and learn as much as she could. She always had questions and was very dedicated. I knew she’d be very successful wherever she ended up.”
Her career pathway led her to Refugio County, about an hour away from the community where she grew up.
“To be in a rural county as a young woman in agriculture can be a pretty tough place to be, sometimes it can be a man’s world but that really didn’t deter her or slow her down,” Netardus said. “She really came through with flying colors, and she’s dealt with some pretty difficult situations.”
After being on the job as the Refugio County Extension agent for just a few months, Hurricane Harvey swept through the area and left a wake of devastation that is still having an impact more than three years later.
“Candace stepped up big time in her role and helped the county navigate through issues related to agriculture and recovery,” Netardus said. “I am really proud of her and what she has accomplished. I’m proud that she is from this area and that she interned with us.
“She came into her position during a rough time, but she’s really done well. She’s handled it like a seasoned veteran.”
One of Moeller’s responsibilities is overseeing the 4-H operations for Refugio County, which allow youths to participate not only in livestock endeavors but present a host of other opportunities as well, including photography, food and nutrition, robotics, public speaking and consumer education.
Moeller said that she has enjoyed overseeing 4-H programs in Refugio County and counts that experience as one of the highlights of being the local extension agent.
“One thing that’s good about our program is there is something for everyone — kids don’t have to show animals if they don’t want to,” she said. “There are things that focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses such as robotics.
“What I enjoy most is seeing kids get passionate about something and have the opportunity to learn new things and have a lot of fun doing that,” she said.
Her duties as ag extension agent go well beyond 4-H, however, and include working with people of all ages to identify programs which can benefit the community in agriculture and a variety of other areas. This also includes providing expertise on production, processing and distribution of ag products, conservation, the environment, marketing and economics.