Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Is Extension at a Crossroads?

A recent article in the popular press has been circulated among Extension professionals that examines a 2009 Journal of Extension article (West, Drake, and Londo) entitled "Extension: A Modern Day Pony Express?" This article (http://deltafarmpress.com/news/brandon-columns-0211/index.html) provides a commentary on the relevancy of Extension programs today in an information age where clientele have various sources of information immediately at their disposal. In this Journal of Extension article (West, Drake, and Londo, 2009) the authors contend that Extension is at a crossroads.

These authors report (West, Drake, and Londo, 2009) that Extension began with a unique niche and an associated business model. The Pony Express could not adapt to change and became a relic of the American West. These authors assert that Extension is now potentially facing the same fate. However these authors (West, Drake, and Londo, 2009) report that Extension’s future has yet to be determined. The basic concept of Extension using objective, research-based information to help the public is of greater importance now than ever.

As your District Extension Administrator, it is clear to me that we should:

· Redefine our educational niche. (Serve traditional audiences and explore methods to engage new audiences.

· Ensure program relevance.

· Employ financial creativity to meet challenges associated with funding

Redefining our Educational Niche

The authors of this article report that Extension cannot be all things to all people. Texas AgriLife Extension Service has historically been successful because of our commitment to defined audiences such as agriculture producers, 4-H youth, families, low income families, diabetics etc. Texas AgriLife Extension Service’s traditional audiences are rapidly changing. Agriculture producers, youth, and families are bombarded with information sources that can be accessed immediately. Texas AgriLife Extension Service must employ strategies that provide our clientele with research based information such as:

· Electronic crop updates delivered to their smart phones rather than a turn row meeting

· Strengthen our efforts with crop and agriculture consultants

· Provide 4-H information related to interest utilizing social media

· Expand efforts such as Ranch TV or Dinner Tonight web based series.

Ensuring Program Relevance

County Extension Agents should utilize a program development process that provides a framework enabling them to identify and prioritize critical issues, develop educational programs and implement educational interventions to address these issues, then evaluate and interpret these programs. When engaging this program development process critical emphasis must be placed on interpretation of Extension programs. Texas AgriLife Extension cannot afford to be the best kept secret in a community.

Funding Challenges

It is imperative that we become more financially creative. Some examples that should be explored regarding the development of creative funding strategies are:

· Development of partnerships with municipalities.

· Development of fee based programs.

· Development of grants to fund specialized programs.

· Development of partnerships with school districts to deliver specialized youth programming.

· Development of partnership with community colleges to deliver specialized program in communities.

Extension represents the heartbeat of the land-grant university system. Texas AgriLife Extension will only continue to be as relevant in the future as it is today if we continually evolve as an agency. The future of Texas AgriLife Extension is bright but only if revolutionary thinking and action is employed by bold and progressive leaders who have the vision, courage, and capability to lead such change (Fehlis, 2005).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Texas AgriLife Extension Service Partnering with 2010 Census

2010 Census

While the immediate financing of state government depends heavily on sales tax revenues, a longer-term factor is the 2010 Census. The Census will impact not only legislative redistricting and the representation of both rural and urban residents, but also the future distribution of $400 billion dollars in federal funds each year, not to mention the spending and planning of many local state and local entities, including AgriLife Extension.

We all know that Census Day is April 1, 2010, and that it's important to count every person in Texas. For Extension's part, our agency is an official partner of the Census Bureau .

The goal of the Census Bureau's partnership program is to combine the strengths of local governments, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations , schools,media, businesses and others, to ensure a complete and accurate 2010 census. The Census Bureau will provide promotional materials, regular updates and data assistance to partners to assist in this effort. Together, through this partnership, we can ensure the 2010 Census message is delivered to every corner of the nation.

There are many ways our agency can support the 2010 Census:

Use Census drop-in articles, messages and logos in newsletters, mailings, and others in hours communications

Encourage staff members and volunteers to complete and mail the questionnaire.

Display and or distribute 2010 census promotional materials

Use and distribute educational materials.

Link to the 2010 Census Web site from your web site.

No doubt many of our Extension offices will receive questions when census forms are mailed in mid-March. Please prepare; a variety of audience-specific fact sheets are available online at http://2010.census.gov/partners/materials/outreach-materials.php.

Informal interpretation:

Interpretation is an ongoing task that will reap major dividends for our program on the local, state and federal level. I would like to commend our agents in Karnes and Matagorda County for participating in a monthly community round table discussions hosted by either the camber of commerce or other community leadership organizations. In Matagorda County the call it 1st Friday held at a restaurant for breakfast. I know that Makenzie Wyatt participated in this event to introduce herself to the community. in Karnes County its called 2nd Friday and is hosted by a participant in the program. This month Karnes County hosted the program and introduced JD Folbre to community and provided a program on outcomes to the individuals that attended. These are excellent ways to continue to interpret to our stakeholders about our significant impacts. DM

Sunday, March 14, 2010

District 11 Agent Preformance Reviews

It was a pleasure to evaluate your performance recently for the 2009 Extension programing year. Our programs across the District continue to be very strong, relevant, and meaningful to the clientele we serve. I want to commend each and every one of you for your dedication and service to the residents of your county, and to our organization as a whole. Some general observations about our program in District 11:

We continue continue to improve on the quality of evaluations of major programing efforts.

We utilize customer satisfaction surveys for output programs well.

The Program Development Process and work with committees and other planning groups is excellent across the District.

Our ability to interpret results to local elected officials is evident in the continuing and increased levels of support form county commissioners courts.

The involvement of volunteers in our programs is excellent, with volunteers contributing over 200,000 hours of service to Extension and our clientele. The figure represents almost 100 additional full time employees working for us to reach the citizens of District 11.

Many partnerships and collaborations continue to allow us to reach new audiences and enhance the educational programs that we offer.

Your support staff is excellent and committed to making your programing and interpretation efforts succeed in every county.

While our programs are very good, there are areas that , in general , can be improved upon even more to make our programs stronger and more meaningful to clientele. Some general observations and goals that we as District should strive for in 2010 and in the future:

Monthly reports should should include more detail regarding program outcomes and results.
Monthly reports should me consistently completed both county commissioners court , travel and of course our TeXas reports.

Office conferences must be consistently be held to build a better working relationships among coworkers and staff.

Our program area committees and planing groups should be more involved in interpreting evaluation results and making suggested changes to programs for increased impact.

While our volunteers are active in many areas, advocacy by volunteers is an area needing further attention. Our leadership advisory board members should be serving in a role of advocating for and assisting in resource acquisition for your local program.

We do a good job of providing information via newsletters, news releases to media, radio etc. however most of the information is usually promoting some upcoming program I would like to challenge each of you to provide more educational information from yourself in these sources. I believe we must establish ourselves as educators and resource professionals rather than facilitators. The same can be said for providing programs try to provide some part of the program along with specialists and other resource individuals.

In our 4-H program we must continue to be creative to keep members and leaders engaged in our programs. As our audiences change we must find short term projects that will attract families as we are competing for their time along with other youth development opportunities.
We must also continue to keep our base strong, our traditional 4-H programs are strong and we all know that this our high profile programs. We are good at supporting tradition programs and should not loose sight of what we are good at.

Again, let me express my gratitude to you for the work that you do to Make a Difference in your county. D11 is blessed to have such a professional , hard working, innovative group of agents. What you do every day is noticed and appreciated by the leaders in your communities and by Extension administration. It is an honor for me to be your DEA. Please remember to certify your performance appraisal on Great Jobs.

Walk Across Texas!

Many of you are familiar with Extension's Walk Across Texas! program. It is an 8-week walking program for teams of eight people or school classes. Teams have a friendly competition to see who can log the most miles walking, jogging, or biking (dancing, doing aerobics, riding a stationary bike, etc.). Miles are logged individually (you do not have to walk together as a team), and then added together for your team. The ultimate goal is to walk, as a team, from Longview to El Paso - 830 miles.

We would like to issue a challenge to ALL District 11 employees of Texas AgriLife Extension Service to participate in Walk Across Texas! beginning March 22, 2010.

You may recruit your spouses, neighbors, and friends too! Are YOU up to the challenge? If so, form your team of 8, and get registered today! You can enter your miles and track your progress online.

All you need to do to get started is to gather each team member's signed individual registration forms, complete the team registration form, come up with a team name and enter it all online at http://walkacrosstexas.tamu.edu and email your team name to Kelsey Hill at klhill@ag.tamu.edu. Use the group code: AG4. If you are not interested in being a team captain and forming your own team, just send Kelsey your individual registration form, and she will place you on a team or you can be a individual walker. Please send all registration materials entered online or sent to Kelsey by Wednesday, March 17, 2010.

Our challenge will end on Monday, May 17th. This is a great way to gear up for summer while getting familiar with one of Extension's great programs!

Please e-mail or call Kelsey Hill if you need help registering or questions. You can find the team registration form, team captain's log, individual registration form, and individual mileage log on the NEW!! Walk Across Texas website.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Utilization of Technology Essential in Extensions' Effectiveness

As Extension develops educational program delivery strategies that include distance education, one of the most challenging aspects is to establish a culture among County Extension Agents to integrate this educational program delivery strategy into ongoing programming to ensure added value to program delivery strategies. County Extension Agents could view this educational strategy as a competitor to traditional program delivery efforts, and fearing that the lack of interaction with the learner will lead to less effective learning experiences.

An excellent example of utilizing technology is the web site developed in the East Region where County Extension Agents demonstrate healthy, nutritious and easy recipe ideas at http://healthyliving.tamu.edu.

We will soon establish a District 11 Distance Education Committee to design training needs for agents in utilizing distance education, and develop strategies to integrate distance education into ongoing Extension educational programming efforts.

Some examples were clientele, can benefit from utilizing technology in Extension programming efforts would include more cost effective utilization of Extension Specialists, providing clientele with on-demand information, ability to reach a larger audience, and provides a complimentary element to face-to-face educational methods.

Even our more traditional audiences have turned to the internet for quick information. According to the National Agricultural Statistical Service (2007), 55% of all farmers have access to the internet and 75% of farms with sales and government payment of $250,000 or more have internet services. It is estimated that there are 248,241,969 internet users in North America which provides a tremendous audience for Extension to provide research-based information to clientele. Extension clientele are already using technology, such as the internet, to obtain information which may or may not be research-based.


Everything you ever wanted to know about quail, deer, and bass including anatomy, botany, habitat management, population dynamics, conservation, biology, and a whole lot more can be learned at the Texas Brigades. The Texas Brigades is a wildlife education and leadership development program. Each 5 day long camp teaches life skills and increases knowledge of wildlife and habitat management. It is a fun, intensive, hands-on experience that is open to 13-17 year olds.

Camp dates and locations for 2010:

South Texas Buckskin Brigade, June 13-17, Carrizo Springs

Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade, June 19-23, Coleman

South Texas Bobwhite Brigade, June 27 – July 1, Campbellton

Bass Brigade, July 12-16, Santa Anna

North Texas Buckskin Brigade, July 18-22, Albany

The application deadline is April 1. Applications and more information about the Brigades can be found at http://www.texasbrigades.org. Please promote this wonderful opportunity to 4-H members and families in your county!

There are also wonderful professional development opportunities for Agents to serve as volunteers at the Brigades. Visit the website to find out more information if you are interesting in serving as a volunteer!

This article was submitted by Jodi McManus, District 11 4-H and Youth Specialist.