I spent some interesting lunches with a marketing expert, intending to improve how we tell our story. I came prepared with three pages of accomplishments, statements of who we are and what we do. It turns out the consultant did not want to read it (he did eventually); he wanted to see if I could articulate it to him in one concise statement.
And you might imagine the problem; there is so much that we do in agriculture, families, youth, horticulture, and communities. "Extension Makes a Difference" said it best.
UK College of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension Service makes millions of contacts each year through hundreds of programs, meetings and activities. But the best measure of Extension's effectiveness and value is whether we made a difference.
From our annual reports, we know that thousands of individuals made lifestyle changes over the last year that positively impacted their nutrition, health, and lifestyle. We know that, due to Extension programs, agricultural producers adopted practices that produced millions of dollars of additional revenue.
Kentucky 4-H impacts one in four young people, ages 9-19, in a variety of programs. Recent research by Tufts University has shown that 4-H'ers make better grades in school and contribute to their community in higher rates than their peers. Youth in 4-H are more likely to see college as part of their future and are 41 per cent less likely to engage in high risk behaviors than their peers. Truly, that is the kind of difference that Cooperative Extension makes in our families and communities.
Effective programs that make a difference result from a planning process that begins with conversations at the county level. This advisory process, these council discussions, we call our grassroots. We are just beginning the process to completely rewrite the work plans that will guide us for the next four years. We hope to engage you in this important conversation. Working together, we will continue to "make a difference."
More than $98.9 million in
for the Fiscal Year 2010
(July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010)
Grants, Gifts & Contracts include:
(as defined by number of contacts)
Larry Goode will head to Afghanistan this spring. Goode, an engineer who grew up on a farm in Franklin County, will be part of a National Guard agriculture development team. It will be the plans and programs specialist's second trip to Afghanistan in the last five years.
Specialists from the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service helped prepare Goode and other members of his team for the mission by providing a broad-based week of training. Horticulture specialist Tim Coolong taught the Guardsmen about vegetable crops, growing vegetables in low-cost, high-tunnel greenhouses, and organic vegetable production. Professor John Strang, extension fruit and vegetable specialist, talked to the group about general tree fruit culture including site selection, soil preparation, tree planting, and variety selection of apples, pears, peaches, plums, and apricots. The group also traveled to Kentucky State University's research farm to look at goat and sheep production and KSU's aquaculture program.
"By no means is this training making us an expert, but it is giving us an overview of things to keep in mind and look at in the whole process," Goode said. "The ultimate goal is to get the Afghan people to help themselves and stabilize and feed themselves."
This was the second National Guard group UK extension specialists have trained. The team that currently is stationed in Afghanistan is helping to establish orchards and poultry production. Goode and his team, which will be in Afghanistan for a year, will carry on when the current team returns this spring.
The assistant extension director for agriculture and natural resources, Gary Palmer, said the National Guard approached UK for help in training the agriculture development team for its mission to Afghanistan. Palmer said UK extension specialists were eager to do it.
"Our specialists and extension people may never know what it is like to walk in these National Guardsmen's boots over there," Palmer said, "but this gives us a chance to have a little part in helping them be successful, and we are more than happy to do that."
The economy has not been kind to Brick Green and other wholesale nursery owners. He's not been selling the volume he needs and needed something to move his Green's Silo House Nursery in Paducah forward. He decided to try onions.
Green worked with University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Associate Vaden Fenton. He grew 1.5 acres of candy onions—a yellow-globe onion with bulbs up to 6 inches across—in four, 150-foot-long raised beds. That's a lot of onions.
"This was my first year for onions, and they were a success. I'm planning to grow them again," he said. "I had a lot of ground where the soil needed to be amended, and this was the perfect project to accomplish that too."
UK Extension vegetable specialist Tim Coolong said new crops are important to Kentucky vegetable growers, and onions are a good option to expand market opportunities.
"Onions are relatively easy to grow and harvest, and they store fairly well," Coolong said. "Unfortunately, 2010 yields for many growers were down somewhat due to high temperatures and the bacterial diseases that accompany them. If growers harvest early enough, before extreme heat, we can avoid most bacterial diseases."
Coolong said sweet onions have been a good seller.
"The single best variety to grow here is the Candy variety, but others also have performed well."
Green sold his first-year crop to other growers who operated roadside market stands or had space at farmers markets.
"I learned a lot that will help me do it better next year," he said. "We'll work on uniformity of water and consistent size next year."
Similar onion projects are under way in other areas such as Crittenden County, where Amish growers are working with UK researchers and extension agents growing onions on plastic mulch with drip irrigation. This results in higher soil temperature, cleaner products, reduced water problems, and maximized fertilizer use.
Finding ways to produce new crops, Coolong said, continually offers more options for consumers to take an interest in Kentucky producers.
The aroma of freshly baked zucchini muffins drifts through the kitchen of the Boone County Cooperative Extension office and mingles with the earthy scent of freshly picked herbs and vegetables. Mary Bruins peels and slices carrots, and her lunch partner, Peggy Lisnek, does the same to a butternut squash.
They're taking part in "Walk and Wok," the brainchild of Family and Consumer Sciences Agent Diane Mason. The program starts with a group walk, followed by a tour of the farmers market, where vendors explain how to select and prepare some of the more unusual items. Then everyone adjourns to the office's kitchen, where they prepare lunch from recipes Mason provides.
"One of the things I love about this class is cooking with someone," Lisnek said. "The camaraderie makes a big difference."
Agents across Kentucky are building on that idea of camaraderie to entice people into incorporating fresh, locally grown food into their daily diets. At the annual "100-Mile Potluck" in Barren County, guests are urged to bring dishes made from ingredients produced within 100 miles. And in Whitley County, the entire extension staff was instrumental in turning the local farmers market into a weekly community event, complete with food, the arts, and games for the kids.
"We are creating a community when we bring people together like this, as well as supporting the local economy," said Phil Meeks, agriculture and natural resources agent in Whitley County. "When people know and support the people who grow their food, the whole community grows stronger, both economically and psychologically."
Back in Boone County, Bruins was enthusiastic about her new lifestyle.
"I've loved learning how to prepare some of the vegetables that I would never have bought before. It's turned me into a farmers market shopper. I don't miss it on a Saturday now, and I usually see Peggy there," she said, referring to her kitchen partner.
The program has convinced Lisnek to eat only natural, local foods whenever possible. "We have the most wonderful meat lady here. I never realized how good beef could taste," she said. "I love it."
Thanks to Cooperative Extension introducing people to the possibilities, enthusiasm is building for local food all around Kentucky.
At only 12 years old, Hopkins County 4-H'er Trevor Adams knows he wants to soar high in his future career, which is why he attended 4-H Aerospace Camp.
"I want to be in the Air Force, and when I retire, I want to be a pilot," he said.
The three-day camp held at West Kentucky 4-H Camp introduces students in grades 6-12 from Western Kentucky to careers in aerospace, math, science, and technology. Using math and science applications they've learned in school, 4-H'ers complete many hands-on activities in rocketry, kite design and construction, computer flight simulation, and navigation using global positioning systems. Camp highlights include flying an airplane with the help of a certified flight instructor and riding in a hot air balloon.
"We want the kids to try some new and exciting things they may not have done before and give them a good appreciation of math and science," said Lloyd Saylor, Butler County 4-H youth development agent. "Flying is a lot of fun, but it's also a lot about physics, mathematics, GPS, and navigation."
Saylor was the driving force behind the creation of the camp that was partially funded by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board through an endowment established with the Kentucky 4-H Foundation. Saylor was inspired by Heath Martin, his former 4-H'er who is now a commercial pilot. Martin decided he wanted a career in aviation after attending a one-day program presented by the Navy when he was a teenager. He volunteers as a certified flight instructor at camp each year.
"Seeing the looks on the kids' faces in the airplane brings back memories of my first flight," Martin said. "It's really important to get out there and not only inspire kids to fly but give them some facts and let them talk to people who work in the industry."
Both Saylor and Martin hope it fuels 4-H'ers' desire for careers in math and science-related fields just like it did for Trevor, who had the opportunity to take the controls during the plane's take-off. While the camp is only offered in Western Kentucky, Saylor hopes it will expand to other areas of the state in coming years.
Extension made 7,738,000 contacts in Fiscal Year 2010.
■ 235,657 youth were involved in 4-H Youth Development programs, meaning one in four youth in Kentucky are involved in the 4-H experience.
■ 18,474 farmers adopted at least one new practice taught in Extension programs. Farmers who did documented over $33 million in additional income—an increase of $12 million over last year. This tremendously benefits Kentucky counties through the spending and re-spending of dollars on local goods and services.
■ Extension helped 103,541 Kentuckians make lifestyle changes through health and wellness initiatives. More than 2,000 collaborations and joint programs were formed with non-Extension organizations to focus on nutrition and health.
■ Extension continued efforts in developing personal and interpersonal skills among clientele. 58,293 citizens indicated increased knowledge, skills, or confidence through participating in last year's Extension programs and 141,019 youth and adults used skills learned through Extension to address community needs.
■ 36,406 Kentuckians adopted one or more practices relating to conserving, sustaining and/or protecting soil resources, and more than 33,000 adopted practices to insure safe water. 635,496 acres of land benefitted from new or additional conservation practices as a result.
■ Extension collaborated with numerous local public libraries, family resource centers, childcare centers, Head Start, public schools, and places of worship to engage 19,895 youth in 85 counties in the Literacy Eating & Activity for Pre-school Program (LEAP). As a result, 15,518 children increased their level of physical activity.
■ More than 19,000 youth completed six or more hours of communications programming. 14,207 youth participated in speeches and demonstrations; from this, 6,843 indicated that they have used their communication skills to assume a leadership role in 4-H or other organizations.
■ Extension engaged clientele in Small Steps to Health & Wellness. As a result of the program, 19,513 citizens noted having a decrease in daily calorie consumption.
■ 61 farming operations participated in the Grain Crops Academy this year, representing 80,054 production acres.
■ Extension helps youth and adults reach their full potential in developing pertinent life skills. 175,561 Kentuckians demonstrated a positive increase in practical living skills. This included 28,016 who adopted one or more practices to reduce debt or increase savings.
■ 1,463 citizens participated in Weight—The Reality Series. The average amount of weight lost was 8 pounds per person. The average waist reduction per person was 3 inches.