Did you know that Penn State Extension is at your service?
What is Penn State Extension? What do we do? Where are we? And more importantly, how can we serve you or your community? I will provide answers for the first three questions and we will come back to the fourth question at the end of this article.
Penn State Extension, previously called Penn State Cooperative Extension Service, is rooted in agriculture. However, the idea of having specialists transfer information generated at research stations to farmers, getting involved in local fairs, and organizing educational activities quickly spread to other emerging areas where communities needed support.
As such, Penn State Extension became an educational organization that delivers science-based information to people, businesses and communities. Currently, Penn State Extension covers seven areas, each with a variety of programs that are listed below:
1. Horticulture: Master Gardener, Green Industry and Infrastructure, Grape Profitability and Sustainability, Tree Fruit Profitability and Sustainability, Vegetable Profitability and Sustainability
2. Food Safety and Quality: Consumer Food Safety, Food Safety Modernization Act, Industrial Food Safety and Quality, and Retail and Food Service.
3. Food Families and Health: Family Well-being, and Health and Wellness
4. Energy, Entrepreneurship and Community Development: Agricultural Entrepreneurship and Community Development, New Beginning Farmers, and Shale Gas
5. Animal Systems: Dairy, Equine, Livestock, Poultry and Farm Animal Welfare.
6. Agronomy and Natural Resources: Bioenergy, Farm Safety, Agronomy, Forestry and Urban Forestry, Pesticide Education, and Water Quality and Quantity.
7. 4-H Youth Development: Science, Volunteer Management and Development, and Positive Youth Development
Each program is run by a team that includes extension educators, extension associates and Penn State faculty, all working together to address community needs, and provide educational materials and training opportunities across these different areas. Penn State Extension has an office in every county in Pennsylvania, where extension educators from different teams are based. We do not have extension educators from each team in every office, however, we will always connect you with a person who can help you.
Going back to the fourth question, “How can we serve you and the community?” I am asking you to ask yourself that question and share your answer with us. If you are a farmer, what are your concerns in terms of crop production, nutrient, disease, pest, and weed management? Do you believe that we should be offering more educational programs? In what areas? Furthermore, do you think we should be taking a more holistic approach in our education programs? Should we also include topics from different areas that would benefit you and other members of your family and the community?
As a member of the Penn State Extension Agronomy Team, I can come up with ideas for workshops and educational materials based on what I see in the field and my interaction with farmers. However, we do not want to be patting ourselves on the back for doing a good job based on what we think your needs are. For an extension program to work, to be real, we need to hear from you, from our community, and from our stakeholders. In a meeting I recently attended, our 4-H program assistant pointed out that two important words that also describe what we do are not part of our name: “cooperative” and “service.” I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you that we are here to cooperate with and to service the community.
I have been in this job for less than two years, and I have been amazed by the number, the quality, and the variety of educational opportunities that Penn State Extension has to offer. I would like to encourage more people to take advantage of those opportunities and also give us their feedback on programs of local importance.
Please feel free to reach out to us at your local Extension Office. For Clinton Co. call 570-726-0022 or send and email to ClintonExt@psu.edu. I can be reached via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or at the Penn State Extension Office in Bellefonte (phone 814-355-4897).
Adriana Murillo-Williams is a Penn State Extension Agronomy Educator.