By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

He uses the word "different" every time when comparing the weather, the landscape, students and lifestyle -- from his old home to his new.

But make no mistake. Garrett Steede likes Hays and Fort Hays State University.

A native of Lucedale, Miss., Steede is in his first semester as agriculture judging coach and program specialist for FHSU and blew into town this summer.

"There is a lot more wind here; we only get wind with hurricanes," he said with a laugh. "But, there's less humidity. I like that."

He is used to a lot more trees, compliments of 64 inches of rain a year in the far southeast corner of Mississippi.

"I like the lack of trees," he said. "I like being able to see across the countryside."

The students at FHSU also differ from those he taught at Clemson University, in his first job out of college.

"Our students here are more knowledgeable about production agriculture," he said. "It makes my job more meaningful, because I know my students can apply what they are learning, whereas at Clemson, they were just jumping through hoops to get into vet school."

And the lifestyle?

"People here have been great," Steede said. "Mississippi is known as the hospitality state, but I'd say that Kansas ranks right up there."

Steede chose FHSU -- yes, he had two options -- over getting his doctorate degree.

"Offers for this job and a Ph.D. program at Texas Tech came at the same time," he said. "I figured it would be best to get more work experience first, then later get my Ph.D. and eventually become a professor."

Besides, the job and its location intrigued him.

"When I was a little boy, I remember seeing Fort Hays State vans at the Dixie National Contest in Jackson, Miss.," he said.

Steede said he always wondered where they were from, and when he ran across the job on higheredjobs.com, he decided to check it out.

John Greathouse is glad he did.

"We're really glad we were able to attract him to our program," said Greathouse, chairman of the FHSU agriculture department.

"He's got a good handle on the subject matter, and he is connecting really well with our students," he said of the 26-year-old Steede.

And, Steede has resurrected the livestock judging program at FHSU, something that had been dormant for several years, and already is forming a meat judging team for the spring semester.

Steede is in Louisville, Ky., this week attending the North American International Livestock Exposition, then will head to Mississippi for Thanksgiving week to visit family.

Greathouse hopes he brings a winter coat back with him.

"Obviously, this is a big change for him, and we're very fortunate he has adjusted well," Greathouse said. "But, he hasn't had much exposure to a lot of snow."