Extension TodayNews from and about the 1890 Land-Grant Extension System
Message from the Chair
Vonda Richardson, Extension Administrator, Florida A&M University
On behalf of the Association of Extension Administrators (AEA) Executive Committee, we are excited to introduce the first Extension Today newsletter.
This digital newsletter will be published monthly and is intended to highlight Cooperative Extension, in addition to provide updates across the 1890 land-grant system. We appreciate the AEA Marketing and Communications Committee’s hard work on this project and each university’s participation in submitting excellent content.
The theme for this first issue is how the 1890 Land-Grant Universities have responded during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each institution’s Cooperative Extension has played a vital role in adjusting their programs during these difficult times to continue providing services to local communities.
In addition to celebrating the launch of our newsletter, this month is the 130th anniversary of the second Morrill Act of 1890. This law helped establish the 1890 Land-Grant Universities. These 19 institutions have contributed to student success and highly engaged in outreach and innovative research. I hope that everyone will tune in on Aug. 31 during a webinar to celebrate our mark in history and our ongoing mission to assist diverse communities.
We appreciate you taking the time to read about the difference our 1890 institutions are making in people’s lives. Working together, we will get through this pandemic. Continue to stay safe and protect others.
Shred Day: A win for everyone
By Allyson Shabel and Karnita Garner, Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Alabama A&M University
What have you been doing while sheltering in place as a result of COVID-19? Many Alabamians filled their stay-at-home hours with cleaning. People are tidying up garages, closets, medicine cabinets and storage sheds. This was apparent by the number of items dropped off for recycling or disposal during a community-wide Shred Day event in Morgan County, Alabama.
Why Shred Days are Important
Shredding events are critical to communities that want to be eco-friendly and residents who wish to safeguard their identities. In 2019, the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2019 published by the Federal Trade Commission reported 650,572 cases of identity theft, surpassing all other fraud complaints. This data suggests that providing a safe and secure way for residents to dispose of important documents is essential. Shred days offer that and so much more.
The Decatur Shred Day was hosted by the Better Business Bureau of North Alabama and several partners, including the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama Extension) at Alabama A&M University and the North Central Alabama Regional Council of Governments (NARCOG). The event comprised vital services, including a drug take-back, e-waste recycling and paper shredding by Document Destruction Services. Event staff adhered to COVID-19 safety protocols.
Alcorn alumnus receives aid through U.S. Small Business Administration
The Alcorn State University Extension Program (ASUEP) serves as a premier “Center for Excellence” for small farmers, ranchers and limited-resource constituents. With three locations serving the state of Mississippi, the ASUEP is available to educate and provide technical assistance to citizens, especially during the current state of the world.
Featuring extension specialists and researchers who work as community educators and facilitators, the ASUEP offers research-based knowledge and resources to prepare Mississippians for self-improvement, individual action and community problem-solving.
Like many others around the world, Bernard Brown, a 79-year-old farmer and 1964 graduate of Alcorn State University, was forced to adapt to economic challenges brought on by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Together with his twin brother Leonard, he owns and operates Brown’s Farm, a commercial cow/calf operation in Bolton, Mississippi. As a result of the CARES Act and support from the ASUEP, Brown was able to preserve his business through an Economic Injury Disaster Loan administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“The coronavirus affected me a whole lot,” said Brown. “With the shutdown going on, I couldn’t sell my calves, so I was losing money. I’m very happy to have received this help from Alcorn and the government.”
Central State University creates innovative programming to reach the community
By Gretchen Rives, Outreach and Communications Coordinator at Central State University Extension
When a fledgling 1890 Land-Grant University is confronted by a world-altering epidemic, it learns to fly into the storm with creativity, teamwork and imagination. Central State University Extension (CSUE) in Ohio was – and is still – hiring staff to fulfill its mission when the organization was confronted by COVID-19 with its emphasis on limited face-to-face contact.
A daunting feat when your mission is built on sharing research-based information to the public it serves. Without a library of online resources yet established, the CSUE team quickly began creating new, virtual means to communicate with its communities. CSUE Associate Director Dr. Siddhartha Dasgupta believes the unforeseen pandemic has created the best with his team.
“We have been growing rapidly as a relatively new 1890 Land-Grant University,” Dasgupta says, “and the challenges created by COVID-19 have shown how the team can work together virtually with the common mission of making life better for the people of Ohio and beyond. We are learning together as we face this new normal.”
Several CSUE programs began communicating in new ways. CSUE’s Family and Consumer Sciences/EFNEP team created a series of videos allowing those already registered for their classes a method to successfully complete the lessons.
Delaware State assists families through Brown Bag Parenting Program
When Delaware State University closed its campus on March 16, 2020, to mitigate spread of the coronavirus on campus, DSU Cooperative Extension staff had to immediately spring to action and adapt to virtual program delivery.
Quadia Ameen, Family and Consumer Sciences educator since 2017, rose to the occasion by increasing the capacity of the Brown Bag Parenting Program (BBP) to reach more parents and caregivers through engaging web content, videos and a podcast. Her digital assets reside on YouTube, Anchor and the BBP page on the Cooperative Extension website, where they are readily accessible by the public.
“When I decided to launch the Unpacking Modern Parenting Webinar podcast, I listened to Using the Whole Whale Nonprofit Podcast, a great (and free!) resource for nonprofit organizations,” Ameen admitted. “Additionally, I surveyed participants to determine whether or not a podcast was warranted and potential topics of interest. I am a huge fan of Survey Monkey and Google Forms because they help me to make decisions based on real feedback from parents and caregivers.”
The weekly parenting webinar allows Ameen to remain in contact with clients during Delaware’s stay-at-home restrictions for the COVID-19 pandemic.
FAMU Cooperative Extension Program’s collaboration connects communities to local farmers amidst COVID-19
FAMU Cooperative Extension, in collaboration with the New North Florida Cooperative, has been working to cultivate schools as a local market for small farmers since 1995 through the Small Farm to School Program.
Numerous school districts, serving over 1 million school children in Florida, as well as in six states in the Southeast have participated in the program, sourcing fresh local produce for school meals from small farmers. Amid the COVID-19 disruptions, schools are out, and school meals are the only source of food for many children.
Ida Daniels, food director for the Hamilton County School District, is continuing her efforts with the Small Farm to School Program to procure fresh produce for school meals. The Hamilton County Child Nutrition Program has participated in Farm to School for over three years now. Her meal options for school lunches have incorporated fresh fruit and vegetables produced by local small farmers.
Since schools are out due to COVID-19, this innovative food director is testing how she can maximize her meal deliveries while limiting her workers time in the cafeteria preparing the meals. As a result, New North Florida Cooperative delivered 24,000 snack packs for her two schools.
Family and Consumer Sciences Extension agents adapt during COVID-19 pandemic
By Russell Boone, Fort Valley State University Agricultural Communications
The COVID-19 pandemic is not preventing Fort Valley State University’s Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) county Extension agents and program assistants from providing services to their clients. A FACS agent or program specialist provides information and education to clients in a variety of fields. This includes food and nutrition, child safety, financial planning, physical activity and home management.
Using laptops and smartphones, agents are conducting programs while practicing social distancing measures to avoid spreading the coronavirus disease. Through ZOOM teleconferencing and various Google platforms, agents can educate and inform their clients with up-to-date information about U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and services.
“The technologies out there are amazing, but human interaction is essential for psychological survival and well-being, and that’s what I value most,” said Ginger Chastine, FVSU Extension agent for Hancock County. Additionally, Chastine said incorporating telework in providing services to clients enhances Cooperative Extension’s ability to design, develop and deliver educational programs as people adapt to remote communications.
Millicent Price, FVSU Extension agent for Crawford County, said she feels comfortable teleworking with her clients. “This is how we have to do our job right now. We have to be creative and make it work,” Price said.
KYSU Healthy Food Initiative: Helping in uncertain times
According to Feeding America’s recent report, 662,660 people are food insecure in Kentucky. Of this number, 190,600 children are faced with food uncertainties. The COVID-19 virus and the necessary response for slowing down its spread has further reduced access to food for individuals and families who are food insecure in Kentucky. In response to this issue, researchers and extension professionals within Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension Program developed the Healthy Food Initiative.
The goal of the Healthy Food Initiative is to provide access to healthy foods through educational opportunities in nutrition and food production, with an emphasis on assisting socially disadvantaged and limited resource individuals during these uncertain times of the COVID-19 virus. Specifically, the initiative works to provide virtual nutritional programs important to health and wellness, information on how families and individuals can grow food safely through virtual demonstration plots, and provide technical assistance to the increasing number of individuals who desire to grow their own foods.
Currently, the Healthy Food Initiative has provided over 410 pounds of cucumber, 40 pounds of patty pan squash, 134 pounds of butternut squash, 1.8 pounds of radishes and approximately 503 pounds of lettuce to limited-resourced and socially disadvantaged individuals in Kentucky.
Through the Lens of Lincoln: Capturing COVID-19
The “Through the Lens of Lincoln: Capturing COVID-19” photo contest serves as Lincoln University’s most recent program launch in response to the national and local health, social and economic climate impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Lincoln University's 4-H Positive Youth Development team established this documentary-style program to engage the youth of Missouri to share their voices, fears, strengths and perspectives through a program that is specifically designed to stimulate their awareness toward social justice issues across the country.
According to the “Through the Lens of Lincoln: Capturing COVID-19” photo contest designer and 4-H State Specialist Adrian Hendricks, “This program gives young people in the state of Missouri a way to harness social power through the vehicle of photography and creativity, whereby they can expand their voices and sharpening their communication skills.”
Our photo contest became a great way to engage existing and developing topics that are currently on the minds of many Missouri youth. The collaboration embedded in the program delivery allows the Lincoln University 4-H staff and local community residents and business owners a way to discuss prominent topics that greatly impact their day-to-day lives.
Cooperative Extension at NC A&T helps North Carolinians weather COVID-19
COVID-19 has left many North Carolinians hunkered down at home wondering when life will return to normal. But for Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the pandemic has been a call to action – a call that Extension has answered with a full-throttle effort to help limited-resource families and farmers withstand an unprecedented crisis.
“We have relationships with organizations all across the state, and we’ve used that network to make sure North Carolinians have research-based information and resources to help them cope,” said Rosalind Dale, Ed.D., Extension administrator and associate dean in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Extension programs have become virtual, and volunteers, staff, 4-H youth and community organizations have come together to serve communities in a variety of ways. With so many people in need, Extension at A&T made a concerted effort to share its expertise quickly and easily. The result is the webpage – COVID-19 Resources for the Public – with practical advice for individuals, families and farmers. More than 30 resources cover topics such as avoiding coronavirus financial scams, safely storing and reheating leftovers, building a portable handwashing station, maintaining a routine for children, and planting a garden.
The BID Academy
By Talia Washington, Prairie View A&M University
In the state of Texas, small minority- and women-owned businesses that want to increase access to government contracting opportunities could do so by obtaining a certification. The HUB (Historically Underutilized Businesses) Program is a certification for minority-owned, women-owned and now veteran-owned businesses that is administered through the Comptroller’s office. In 2019, the state of Texas purchased over $20 billion in goods and services from small businesses who supply products that range from coffee to cement.
The Community Economic Development Unit of the Cooperative Extension Program revamped the previous BID Academy curriculum and marketed the program on various external sites to attract more businesses to the workshops. Since the implementation of the new curricula, the CED unit Extension Agents adopted the program in Willacy, Jefferson, Harris and El Paso counties, in which resulted in over $2.6 million government contracts won. In addition, they assisted over 40 minority-owned, veteran-owned and women-owned businesses become HUB certified.
The newly HUB certified Kwasi Perry with UAV Survey LLC provides unmanned aerial systems (drones) services for oil and gas, construction and public safety entities. They also incorporate infrared technology for advanced services for advance analysis, which has been instrumental during the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 accelerates digital learning alternatives for 1890 Extension
On March 12, the South Carolina State University 1890 Research & Extension management team made a difficult, yet necessary decision to suspend its Extension programs and activities. COVID-19, a novel virus and pandemic, was severely threatening the health of South Carolinians. With fears mounting, a rise in confirmed cases and reports of fatalities throughout the state, the 1890 management team suspended its high-touch Extension programs to reduce any potential exposure to staff and Extension clientele.
With the near future unknown, 1890 Executive Director Dr. Louis Whitesides and Acting Associate Extension Administrator Edoe Agbodjan began contemplating Extension’s impact in a COVID-19 environment. “There were just too many uncertainties at the time, and there still are factors of which we are not aware,” said Whitesides. “We just knew at that time our constituents needed us. They needed a familiar and trustworthy partner to help them through a devastating time, a time when accurate and relevant information was needed.”
Aware that most working South Carolinians telecommuted at home, and children and young adults, alike, were learning lessons on mobile devices at their kitchen table, the pair recognized that the existing plan at the time to begin an online learning platform the following year would need to happen now.
Southern University JAGriculture Program helps families prepare for hurricane season during the pandemic
Emergency preparedness in the wake of COVID-19, a national pandemic, has presented a new set of challenges for families in the state of Louisiana. SU JAGriculture, Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center (SUAREC), Cooperative Extension Program’s emergency preparedness initiative, operates under the motto, “evacuation is a luxury!”
Unfortunately, most disasters and emergencies are unpreventable, often unpredictable, affects everyone to some degree. However, through engagement, we understand rural and low-resource communities are less resilient after a disaster, this can be due to limited community resources and a lack of preparedness.
The SUAREC Cooperative Extension Program began targeted instruction in Emergency Preparedness in October 2019. Since the inception of the program:
- 48 Emergency Preparedness Tips have been shared on various social media platforms and on the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center’s website.
- 126 farm families across the state of Louisiana have been trained by the SU JAGriculture team to develop emergency plans.
- Over 1500 views on Emergency Preparedness have been made by viewing the website and other social media platforms.
- Since the pandemic, bi-weekly tips have been presented through the SUAREC’s Facebook Live and through eXtension’s Communities of Practice.
Tennessee State University helping the fight against COVID-19
The SARS-COV-2 virus has caused severe and fatal pneumonia in developing and developed countries and poses a global public health concern. We have seen the devastating effects when viruses jump from animals to humans as is the case with zoonotic viruses such as SARS and the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Despite the magnitude of these problems, there is a lack of effective vaccines and antiviral treatments for veterinary and human uses. This virus can survive on the surfaces and can cause infections in public spaces. Airborne transmission of this viral particle is possible in specific circumstances and settings. No specific treatments are available for the SARS-COV-2 virus yet.
A team headed by Dr. Ankit Patras at Tennessee State University has been focusing on developing optical based technologies for surface and air disinfection. Dr. Brahmaiah Pendyala and Dr. Ankit Patras conducted genomic modeling and mathematically calculated the UV sensitivity of the SARS-COV-2 virus in collaboration with Dr. Bharat Pokharel. This requires complete understanding of the nucleotide composition and genomic sequence of the SARS-COV-2 virus. The team developed a genomic model to predict the sensitivity of the SARS-COV-2 virus to UV photons. Data will also be used to understand UV dose requirements for inactivating the SARS-COV-2 virus on surfaces and in the air.
Tuskegee University cross campus partnerships to increase COVID-19 testing and awareness in Alabama Black Belt counties
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Acting President Dr. Ruby Perry established a task force of which there was a named Community Engagement Subcommittee. As a member, Dr. Raymon Shange, associate Extension administrator, worked with Dr. Deloris Alexander (subcommittee chair) and faculty and staff from multiple colleges at Tuskegee University with support from the university’s Community Health Task Force co-chairs.
Primary outcomes of this subcommittee’s actions were to provide PPE for offices and agencies in the Alabama Black Belt, make viral transport media for COVID-19 testing in the community, promote an informational campaign on the newly established TUCE 2FAS Podcast, as well as generating traditional Extension fact sheets.
Tuskegee University joined with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) to increase COVID-19 testing in Alabama Black Belt counties. At the start of the initiative, the state of Alabama had only tested nearly 200,000 out of the almost 5 million residents for the novel coronavirus since the pandemic began. The effort by the Community Engagement Subcommittee has been impactful on the local community as over 3600 tubes of media were made to support COVID-19 kits for testing of which 3,000 were used by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and 640 at Tuskegee University.
UAPB Extension specialist leads efforts to donate sweet potatoes to Pine Bluff citizens
Shaun Francis, Extension horticulture specialist for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences (SAFHS), has been leading the school’s recent efforts to “sweeten” the lives of Pine Bluff residents. He currently oversees donations of UAPB-grown sweet potatoes to community organizations that serve citizens, including some vulnerable populations.
So far, SAFHS has donated around 1,200 pounds of the nutritious root vegetable to organizations including senior citizen centers, halfway houses and addiction recovery centers, helping feed around 230 people altogether. Additionally, the school donated over 2,000 pounds of sweet potatoes to the city of Pine Bluff for a recent event meant to encourage local participation in the 2020 census.
Held Saturday, May 2, in the parking lot of the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, the “Census Roundup” allowed citizens to easily participate in the census. Precautions against COVID-19 were implemented to protect the public’s health and safety. According to Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington, completing the census allows citizens to shape their community for the next 10 years. “It will determine how much federal funding for services such as our hospitals, health care, fire departments, schools and education, and public transportation will be provided,” she said.
Helping farmers keep abreast of COVID-19 legislation and programs
University of Maryland Eastern Shore Extension partnered with the Small Business Development Center Eastern Region, the Agriculture Law Education Initiative and the Maryland Agricultural and Resource Based Industry Development Corporation to provide a timely, free webinar on May 20 for farmers impacted by COVID-19. The aim of the webinar was twofold: to provide agricultural producers with the most current, practical information about loan and grant solutions available to help them weather the financial impacts of the pandemic and to inform farm employers about changes in employee paid sick leave and paid family leave laws.
The program featured SBDC Eastern Region Director John Hickman, Environmental and Agricultural Faculty Legal Specialist with ALEI and UMES Extension Nicole Cook and MARBIDCO’s Executive Director Stephen McHenry. New legislation and programs are coming out nearly every day. The virtual event, therefore, was designed to address inquiries from growers about the new financial assistance programs available for farmers and agricultural businesses impacted by COVID-19.
The presenters provided easy-to-understand information to help farmers figure out which programs might be helpful to them and how to apply. Cook provided information about the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act.
While COVID caused most of the world to distance, the pandemic drew Virginia’s 1890 and 1862 land-grant institutions closer together
By Michelle Olgers, Virginia State University College of Agriculture Director of Marketing & Communications
Within the land-grant system, Virginia’s 1890 institution, Virginia State University (VSU), and its 1862 institution, Virginia Tech, have a solid working relationship. Perhaps that’s because unlike many other states in the 1890 region, VSU and Virginia Tech committed themselves many years ago to having one Virginia Cooperative Extension, with each institution funded and managed to jointly administer the program.
Despite this stronger-than-usual working relationship between an 1890 and 1862 institution, all has certainly not been rainbows, butterflies and unicorns. And it still isn’t. But the unprecedented challenges the Coronavirus pandemic brought to our doors in March pushed the Virginia Cooperative Extension system off its business-as-usual trajectory, resulting in the two universities working closer together—in previously unprecedented ways. This new, more collaborative pathway is one that both institutions believe will ultimately benefit our staff, faculty and most importantly, the diverse publics we serve.
At the start, as we began to understand the severity of the Coronavirus situation, leadership teams from each institution, headed up by 1890 Extension administrator, Dr. M. Ray McKinnie and 1862 Extension director, Dr. Edwin Jones, began meeting daily by Zoom. They participated daily in making decisions about closures, safety, signage and more that could work across the system.
West Virginia State University helping grandfamilies in need during COVID-19 pandemic
Hundreds of grandparents raising grandchildren are getting much-needed support during the COVID-19 pandemic from West Virginia State University’s (WVSU) Healthy Grandfamilies program. Led by WVSU Extension Service and the university’s Department of Social Work, the program is providing education, support, social work resources and – in some cases – financial assistance to grandfamilies that is keeping food on the table and kids physically active during the pandemic.
“West Virginia ranks second in the nation for the prevalence of grandparents raising their grandchildren, so this program is meeting a dire need in our state” said WVSU Extension Specialist Bonnie Dunn, who helped launched the program in 2016. “With schools unexpectedly closed during the spring semester because of the coronavirus, we found that many of our grandparents were struggling to make up for lost instructional time, meals and physical activity.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, WVSU Healthy Grandfamilies partnered with the West Virginia Family Engagement Center (WVFEC) to provide support to grandfamilies in that group’s five-county service region. “WVFEC is based on current evidence-based practices that engage families, educators and community members in the educational process to enhance student academic achievement, so aligning our missions made perfect sense,” said Dunn.