Extension Recap from 2018

During the holiday season is often a time to reflect on the year. I have many blessings in my life. First and foremost, I would like to thank my family for being understanding with me as I often travel to evening meetings and conferences that pull me away from home. Secondly, I am fortunate to have great colleagues that help me out and work as a team. I’d also like to thank you, my readers, extension supporters, 4-H volunteers and others who have helped in some capacity with an extension or 4-H program. Without amazing Nebraska Extension supporters, programs wouldn’t be as successful as they are.

thank you text on black and brown board
Photo by on

While I’m not one to boast, I’d like to mention that Nebraska Extension is one of the leading Extension organizations in the country! Utilizing cutting-edge delivery methods and programming ideas, we focus on critical issues identified by Nebraskans through periodic needs assessments. Nebraska Extension is nationally-leading 4-H youth engagement by reaching 1 in 3 youth between the ages of 8-18 and we have extension faculty with national and international reputations. Finally, Nebraska Extension engages a large number of Nebraskans in Extension programming every year – in fact 443,041 in Fiscal Year 2018. These are great accomplishments to look at from a balcony view, but what are some key impacts locally for Clay and Fillmore Counties?

Let’s describe some key accomplishments in Clay County. Nebraska Extension in Clay County (and Fillmore County) reaches 1 out of 2 age-eligible youth. In 2018, the Clay County 4-H program reached 65% of youth in the county.  This was accomplished through the use of afterschool, school enrichment and traditional 4-H programs.“4-H involves so many different areas.  Through the numerous programs and workshops offered, our family has gained interests in areas we never would have explored” according to a Clay County 4-H Parent. Over 85 youth participated in Shooting Sports training including Archery, BB Gun, and Air Rifle. Clay County has 18 shooting sports leaders, 13 of which are certified. “The 4-H shooting sports program has helped me improve my accuracy in both archery and air rifle. Throughout my years of shooting sports, I’ve made friends with fellow 4-Hers and also with my instructors” according to a youth participant.

IMG_2323Fillmore County Extension completed its fifth year hosting a community garden and raised over 115 pounds of produce in 2018, which was donated to senior citizens. In 2018, a Fillmore County 4-H’er (and parent) in the Nebraska Beekeepers Association youth program engaged Fillmore County 4-H with honeybee production. With support from the Geneva City Council and Fillmore County Supervisors, Fillmore County 4-H’s now have a hive north of the Fillmore County Extension office. The Fillmore County 4-H Council provided funds to start the project which has been able to educate 4-H youth and adult audiences. During honey extraction time, youth from a local childcare center even had the chance to extract honey from the frames. Over 20 frames of honey were extracted for a total of 14 gallons of honey to sell. Proceeds go back into the production of beekeeping so the project will be sustainable for the future.

The Farmers and Ranchers College is a unique opportunity to educate agricultural producers in south central Nebraska. Approximately three hundred producers participated in the 2017-18 Farmers & Ranchers College programs. Producers attending these workshops managed over 155,000 acres and managed nearly 15,000 head of beef animals. Participants surveyed indicated an average of $6.00/acre of knowledge gained from participating for a potential impact of nearly $1 million. The seventeenth annual Partners in Progress- Beef Seminar featured a variety of industry, University and agricultural organization presenters. Ninety-five percent of participants surveyed were very satisfied or satisfied with the program quality and seventy-six percent indicated that previous programming improved their knowledge of making risk management decisions.

Of course, there are numerous more impacts and programming results to report, but these are some that I decided to include this this week’s post.

Wishing you all a very Happy Holiday Season!

Crops, Horticulture, Irrigation, Livestock, Programming, Uncategorized, Youth

What is Extension?

Often times when I tell people I work at the “Extension Office” they have no idea what it is we do. It is so hard to describe without giving a plethora of information. One of our signature programs people often most often associate with is the 4-H program. While this is a large and very successful component of Extension, it is only one of many programs.ExtensionDifferencepic

Everyday, whether you know it or not, you have most likely been indirectly impacted by Extension programming. Extension essentially takes science and research-based information from the University Of Nebraska – Lincoln and delivers it into the hands of the public. We make UNL easily accessible to the public. For example, we provide services and resources to the agricultural community, but also sectors as diverse as nutrition, health care and technology. From border to border, Nebraska Extension is making an incredible impact on the success of our state – its youth, its families, its farms & ranches, its communities, its economy.

For example, as a result of our Learning Child Extension staff, approximately 24,000 children in Nebraska benefit from early childhood professionals and parents who have the essential skills and knowledge to support the healthy growth and development in the children in their care. Take the crops area: last year, Extension presented workshops in 94 locations to over 4,000 participants from 93 Nebraska counties, 9 U.S. states and 4 foreign countries. Our community vitality programming has engaged over 10,000 Nebraskans in Broadband planning and engaged over 2,500 people through the Entrepreneurial Community Activation Process which resulted in community-wide visions, a new economic development corporation being started, community web portal and a young professional network.

Nebraska Extension continues to evolve and is one of the leading Extension programs in the world. In doing so, Extension Educators are more focused in their area of expertise and able to provide clients with robust information. For example, Extension staff covers a specific region to ensure clients are being served well. Each county has access to a professional in the areas of:

  • Community environment (horticulture)
  • Food, Nutrition & Health
  • Crops & Water
  • The Learning Child
  • Community Vitality
  • Beef & Livestock Systems
  • 4-H Youth Development

This has been a very brief overview of Extension and next week we’ll discuss how this impacts our multi-disciplinary programming and Fillmore County.

Crops, Programming

Celebrating the Past, Looking to the Future

As I write this, we just celebrated the Centennial of Cooperative Extension yesterday. On May 8, 2014 the Smith-Lever Act was passed which was introduced by Senator Hoke Smith of Georgia and Representative A. F. Lever of South Carolina to expand the vocational, agricultural, and home demonstration programs in rural America. It was designed to disseminate information from the land grant universities to the people. One hundred years later, we are still doing this, only through different methods and delivery systems.

In 2014, we celebrate the Smith-Lever Act, which established the Cooperative Extension Service, a unique educational partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the nation’s land-grant universities that extends research-based knowledge through a state-by-state network of extension educators.

All of this got me wondering what was extension like in Fillmore County

Snow storm from 1918 proved to make extension work difficult!
Snow storm from 1918 proved to make extension work difficult!

in the beginning so I looked at our archives and found some interesting information. The first reports I found were from 1918 with the first county agricultural agent being J.L. Thomas. Some of the projects he worked on were wheat smut control, soybean inoculation, poultry judging, hog cholera control and black leg control. April 1, 1918 was when the “Fillmore County Farm Bureau” (now known as Fillmore County Extension Board) began active work in Fillmore County.

An excerpt had the following:
“The county board of supervisors assigned to J.L. Thomas a large well lighted, well heated and well ventilated, as well as a well located room on the first floor of the court house, for his office. The farm bureau board at the time Mr. Thomas was selected made arrangements with him to employ his wife, Mary E. Hall Thomas, on half time as office assistant. At the first meeting of the board held on Monday night, April 8th, 1918 the agent was instructed to purchase needed office supplies and equipment.” Some of the emergency projects assigned to him were “testing of seed corn and finding a substitute for sugar which included, keeping of bees, catching of all new swarms, production of sugar cane, location of sorghum mills in the county and making and use of sorghum.”

Thinking back to what was happening in 1918, World War I ended in November 1918. When the U.S. entered WWI, food had become a weapon and no other country produced more food than the U.S. In order to have enough food to feed the allies, Americans were urged to conserve food and eliminate waste, thus the importance of finding sugar substitutes, etc. Also, life on most farms consisted of no electricity or indoor plumbing. Each family member had chores such as milking cows, harnessing horses, gathering eggs, etc. Farm families looked forward to the fun of school programs, trips to town, church gatherings and other social events.

Extension demonstration showing the use of tractors in farming.
Extension demonstration showing the use of tractors in farming.

In the 1918 narrative it describes that work began at a very busy time of year (planting) and continued until October when it was planned to hold meetings for the community, but at that time the Spanish Influenza caused public schools to be closed and all public gatherings be postponed for five weeks. Organizational work was one of the first things to occupy the county agent in the next year. Some of the first youth programs focused on pig, chicken and garden projects. Canning teams and a war bread team were organized.
Also interesting in the narrative was that “the domestic science department of the Milligan school canned ten bushels of peaches and three bushels of tomatoes and did not lose a quart of the peaches or tomatoes.” It was a dry year as many members appeared to have lost their gardens completely and the pig projects didn’t do as well as some died and some youth were too busy with work in the fields. “Fifty dollars in prizes was given to the project members by the County Fair Board. Six pigs, one calf, one crate of chicks and some garden products were entered by club members.”

As I found some of these interesting points, trying to imagine what it would have been like in 1918 intrigues me. Thinking of how much more travel time across the county was required to reach people and the difficulty of getting things organized and promoted compared to the ease of the Internet we now take for granted. While there were definitely many challenges, extension managed to overcome them, just as our current extension system evolves with new delivery modes and remains strongly committed to “the people”. For 100 years, the Smith-Lever Act has stimulated innovative research and vital educational programs for youth and adults through progressive information delivery systems that improved lives and shaped a nation.