Programming, Uncategorized

Extension’s Robust Programming

Last week I briefly highlighted areas Nebraska Extension is involved. This week’s article will touch on some of the key issues Extension focuses, based on stakeholder input. Nebraska faces critical issues we must address to make our world a better place. Many of these issues are complex, multidisciplinary, and challenging, yet they present us with great opportunities to help shape a future that is promising for our state and nation (NE Extension, 2016).” With this in mind, in order for Extension to help clients be successful, Extension faculty and staff are highly focused on specific issues in interdisciplinary teams, called Issue Teams.

IssueTeamThis list will continue to evolve over time as issues change, but currently consist of: Insect ecosystems (including pollinators), healthy lifestyles for children and youth, resistant & invasive pests, Nebraska leaders, college & career success, engaging underserved youth, climate variation, consumer confidence in food, children learning experiences, emerging technology for agriculture, efficient water use, ag producer economic viability, livable communities, STEM careers, water & soil protection, youth entrepreneurship food access and diversified ag production.

With my background in agricultural education, I will be moving towards more youth development programming related to crops and agricultural education. I am able to reciprocate youth crop/ag programming with my colleagues, as they provide programming in their expertise area in Fillmore County. This week I’d like to introduce you to my Extension colleagues serving Fillmore County and their respective regions.

Food, Nutrition & Health – Kayla Colgrove, Gage County
Beef (& Livestock) Systems – Duane Lienemann, Webster County
The Learning Child – Leanne Manning, Saline County
Community Environment (Horticulture) – Nicole Stoner, Gage County
Crops & Water – Me as I transition into more youth development; it will be the new educator in Clay County when hired.
4-H Youth Development – Me! I will also serve Clay County as I move towards more youth programming.

You might wonder how this will impact the service you receive, when in fact Extension always has had a network of faculty in these disciplines. The biggest advantage with this structure change is that faculty is more focused in their respective disciplines, thus providing clients better service and programs. It also helps clientele establish improved relationships with Extension faculty as we serve our accountability regions. Even if you do not physically go into an Extension office or use our web tools, apps or publications, it is likely the information a farmer received from a crop consultant or salesman came from UNL research or Extension programming. Food handlers at restaurants were probably trained by Nebraska Extension’s Serve Safe program and parents going through a divorce take a course taught by, you guessed it – Nebraska Extension faculty! We are sometimes referred to as the ‘best kept secret’ which is why I’m taking some time this week to share just a couple examples of programs you might not be familiar.

As it says on our Extension website, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension is a nationally respected educational leader. We work in a rapidly changing world, yet one familiar phrase seems most appropriate for Extension’s future: “The future is what we choose to make.” We have a responsibility to our clientele and colleagues to maintain high quality educational programs and a relevant and responsive organization.

Crops, Programming, Youth

Science & Research SHOULD Matter

Last week, you might recall that I shared how society in general has become more science illiterate over the past decades and basic definitions of science and research. One particular part of the science definition important to consider and has implications on the agricultural industry. Science as defined by Merriam-Webster, “The state of knowing: knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding”. “As distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding”… When people make decisions based on science, they are using facts to support their decision; however recently, large companies and food chains are making decisions with ignorance and misunderstanding, rather than using science.

As an educator, the first thing I want to do (and often do), when various companies use their money and marketing schemes to attack agriculture convois fire back with facts and data explaining why or how that particular company is wrong with their bold statements that a majority of the time, have no sound science or data to back their decisions. Some people just don’t enough about an issue or haven’t researched an issue from credible sources and providing the science-based information might work; however an overwhelming majority of consumers just believe what they hear from large companies. After all, large companies have deep pockets to spend on advertising and are savvy in their approaches, such as Chipotle. Blasting the average Harvestwebconsumer with facts is usually not the most effective way to communicate with them. First, we must “meet them where they are.” Find something you have in common with them and try to understand why they feel a particular way about an issue.

An example approach I might take is to engage in conversation with an anti-GMO (genetically modified organism) person. First, find some things we have in common. It might be they have two young children like me, so we can talk about what it is like to be a working mother and raising children. Then, ask that person, why they feel a particular way about GMOs. In a non-defensive way, I can share with them my experiences and knowledge of GMOs and that I have no problems with them and they won’t harm my children. Even if this conversation doesn’t change the person’s mind, it might make them have some respect for my point of view and agree there is a place for all kinds of foods and agriculture. While I understand this type of approach takes time and might not always work, whenever one becomes defensive, it never seems to do any good.

When you take the science illiteracy component and add how disconnected consumers are from agriculture, it is inevitable that misinformation and emotion-driven decisions will be made. Our role as agriculturalists is to engage with people first, and then educate – a clear message I received from the AgChat Foundation conference last year. We need to be engaged in these difficult conversations to help educate others.

As a farmer’s daughter, I can assure my non-agricultural friends, famers are some of the hardest working and intelligent people you will ever meet. I also feel privileged to work with farmers and ranchers and the future of agriculture through our youth. Agriculture is and will always be the backbone of our country and without it, we would not be here today.