PULLMAN, Wash. — An avid 4-H kid raised on a wheat and cattle farm in Lincoln County, Don Llewellyn never outgrew his childhood love of livestock husbandry.
The Washington State University Livestock Extension Specialist came home this spring. Starting May 16, 2022, as the new director of Lincoln County Extension, Llewellyn is putting his practical, positive approach to work for the people of his native county.
“It’s a great opportunity to come full circle,” he said. “To come back here and do what I love to do, which is extension for the people of Lincoln County: that’s pretty special.”
By the time he graduated from Wilbur High School in 1977, Llewellyn had a passion for cattle breeding and nutrition.
“My family was deeply involved in agriculture in Lincoln County,” he said. “We had a strong 4-H program in Lincoln County, and Wilbur had a big group of kids. 4-H and the Junior Hereford Association were huge parts of my life.”
Llewellyn started raising 4-H animals as soon as he could, at age 9. State fairs, cattle judging, and regional heifer shows punctuated his teenage years.
“Livestock is deeply ingrained in who I am,” he said. “There’s a sense of accomplishment and excitement to see the next generation of calves. You have to be committed, because it’s a long haul before you see the fruits of your labor.”
Earning an undergraduate degree in animal science at Oklahoma State University, then graduate and doctoral degrees at Kansas State University in ruminant nutrition, Llewellyn taught at Eastern Kentucky University for several years before seizing the opportunity to return to Washington.
Based in Benton County, as a regional livestock specialist with WSU Extension’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Unit, he has helped livestock producers and budding 4-H and FFA youth solve challenges and improve their animal-nutrition practices. A teacher and a scientist, Llewellyn mentored graduate students as he tackled fundamental questions involving the science of forage and nutrition.
“There’s great value in blurring the lines between academics and Extension,” he said. “Not only do we get to do good, applied research, it increases our capacity for outreach work.”
While Llewellyn will continue to provide livestock production expertise across Washington state when needed, “my focus is to serve the people of Lincoln County.”
“Dr. Llewellyn is a scientist, a teacher, and a community partner with a heart for the land-grant mission,” said Vicki McCracken, associate dean and director of WSU Extension. “For more than a decade, he’s put the livestock producer of Washington first, and he genuinely loves the process of finding and sharing knowledge. Now, he’s doing the same for local farms, families, and communities.”
In Lincoln County, WSU Extension personnel conduct research on grain breeding, weeds, and farm management; offer youth development programs through 4-H, nutrition, and food safety education through the SNAP-Ed program; and share resources on livestock, irrigation, weather, and common plant and insect problems.
Llewellyn’s background helps him understand producers’ needs, while “my perspective as a past 4-H member means I know what it’s like for kids and parents.
“I know the value of good programs, and I’m here to facilitate them,” he added. “I know the people; I come from the same background.”
Llewellyn’s philosophy is an optimistic, practical one: focus on what will help people now.
“We should find ways to do things, not settle for reasons why we can’t,” he said. “If something’s good for the people of Lincoln County, I’m going to find a way to get it done.”
— WSU CAHNRS