Extension TodayNews from and about the 1890 Land-Grant Extension System
Message from the Chair
Vonda Richardson, Extension Administrator, Florida A&M University
As we approach the end of a very eventful year for our nation, the Extension Today newsletter is celebrating the activities and impact of Community Resource and Economic Development Extension programming across the many communities served by 1890 institutions. Our communities have experienced significant changes from the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, business closures, financial hardships, virtual and online education, and many more.
With 1890 Extension’s reach, our communities remain resilient. There are many questions our Community Resource and Economic Development educators seek to answer through sound science and education that build on existing strengths while responding to community concerns. AEA celebrates the innovation and commitment of our Community Resource and Economic Development leaders, educators and stakeholders.
We appreciate you taking the time to read about the talented expertise in 1890 Cooperative Extension in their exploration of critical community and economic development interest such as leadership, workforce development, entrepreneurship, civic engagement, community planning and disaster preparedness.
I also extend wishes for a happy holiday season and look forward to an impactful 2021. Continue to stay safe and protect each other.
Improving school and career plans
By Community and Economic Development Team
A 2019 white paper published by the Coalition for Career Development states that America has spent too little for resources in career development among middle and high school students. Although student interests are developed by the eighth grade, many students enter and leave high school without clear career goals. When educational and career goals are unclear, some students delay going to college or spend an extra year or two in school, adding costs and time to earn a college degree.
Alabama Extension’s Community and Economic Development team at Alabama A&M University implements Career Countdown. This program uses interactive lessons to provide participants, including middle and high school students, with insights that link interests, skills and abilities to career choices. It also helps participants develop a clear plan to achieve career goals. In the past year, the program reached more than 2,300 participants in person and online.
Post-program surveys indicated that most participants increased their knowledge and understanding of how career interests link to educational opportunities and can impact the quality of their lives after school. The Community and Economic Development team also initiated a virtual business network to connect limited-resource, women and minority entrepreneurs to COVID-related resources. To date, an estimated 341 businesses are members of the network.
Meeting community needs with Local Foods, Local Places action plan
Local Foods, Local Places is an initiative established in 2014 that helps communities revitalize neighborhoods through the development of local food systems. Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), this program invites communities to apply for technical assistance to refresh their economy, promote local foods, improve health, and protect the environment.
The Alcorn State University Extension Program recently joined forces with Shape Up Mississippi in Vicksburg, Mississippi, to generate an action plan outlining a system for using local foods to meet a broad range of community goals. Working with the city, EPA’s consultant team held a workshop to learn what residents and other stakeholders wanted and developed design concepts based on input received.
Members determined the best course of action was to create an educational and economical food center combining a farmers market, community garden, demonstration kitchen, academic center and the Catfish Row Museum, which explains the local culture and its relation to the Mississippi River. The plan’s primary goals include promoting healthy eating, growing connections to underserved communities, leveraging tourism and business, and growing Vicksburg’s farmers market.
For more information about resources for rural places and how revitalization can help towns strengthen their economies, improve quality of life, and protect the environment and human health, visit www.epa.gov.
Central State University Extension and partners offer free record expungement clinic
The Central State University Extension (CSUE) Community and Economic Development Program hosted a free record expungement clinic this summer at a Dayton-area church. They collaborated with Miami Community Action Partnership, Ohio Justice and Policy Center, Justice Bus, Omega Baptist Church, RTA, Montgomery County Office of Reentry, Law Office of Public Defender Office-Montgomery County and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Within 30 days, they received more than 140 applications, and 90 participants are in process to have their past criminal records sealed.
"This record sealing clinic demonstrates how the legal society, HBCUs, community and resource partners, and faith leaders can come together for a worthy effort to address barriers to personal and professional advancement, as well as possible second chance opportunities," said Anthony Barwick, CSUE program leader for Community and Economic Development.
Economic development and entrepreneurship
Since partnering with Florida A&M University Cooperative Extension Program (CEP), the Havana Community Development Corporation (HCDC), incorporated in 2009, continues to make progress in creating a sustainable community, business and education center. Twenty-two acres purchased from the Gadsden County School Board for $220,000 in 2011 is now valued at $1.5 million after years of renovations of primary areas that can become training and income producing service areas.
The once thriving Havana Northside High School (1963-2003), the first high school built for African Americans, sat abandoned for nine years. As a nonprofit, the school has been certified on the National Historic Registry as the first school built in Gadsden County, Florida, to educate African American students. The HCDC remains relentless in building the community through public-private partnerships and grants and small business loans.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic halted most efforts in direct training and education for the beginning farmers program. However, in 2020, a partnership with FAMU CEP has allowed the HCDC to realize income from growing and selling vegetables through local venues such as Red Hills and Havana Main Street Farmers Market, averaging $500 monthly in income for the aquaponics program. These efforts will allow HCDC to begin providing community gardens to 25 participants in 2021 at no charge.
Fort Valley State Cooperative Extension receives grant to assist schools and farmers
By Russell Boone, Fort Valley State University Agricultural Communications Public Information Editor/Writer
Fort Valley State University’s Office of Community Development and Outreach, a part of FVSU’s Cooperative Extension Program, recently received a $224,914 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program Grant.
From Oct. 7, 2020, until Aug. 31, 2022, the grant (CFDA 10.522) will fund a first-time collaboration between FVSU’s Cooperative Extension Program and the Baldwin County School District (BCSD). This will allow the Baldwin Grows Farm to School Community Action Committee, a collaborative group fostering innovative strategies, to strengthen their existing Farm to School (F2S) programming within the school district.
Joy Moten-Thomas, assistant Extension administrator for community development and outreach, explained the selection of Baldwin County. “I was excited to learn that we were one of five awardees in the country. In the area of community and economic development, we had already begun exploring opportunities in the Baldwin County area with the possibility of adding Extension staff in the near future to meet the needs of persistent poverty farmers and limited resource clientele in this area of the state,” Moten-Thomas said.
The USDA and NIFA made awards totaling $960,000. For more information about the programs in Baldwin County, contact Moten-Thomas at (478) 825-6954 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Urban community engagement: Combating food insecurity in Oklahoma
Food insecurity has increased at an unrelenting pace throughout communities surrounding Tulsa, Oklahoma. Feeding America.org currently reports that in Oklahoma, 594,140 people are struggling with hunger and of that number, 35 percent are children. As a result of its prevalence, and the many negative health consequences, food insecurity is one of the most important nutrition-related public health issues in the United States.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased food insecurity in North Tulsa, Oklahoma, communities. Many residents suffer from increased unemployment, lack of access to grocery stores and public transportation. Shar Carter, Langston University Cooperative Extension and Outreach Program (LU-CEOP) associate educator, established partnerships with local programs such as Food on the Move (FOTM), Go Fresh, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Impact Ardmore and most recently, RPK Group of Texas to increase food distribution in support of those in need.
FOTM and Impact Ardmore operate largely on donations while the food distribution events have increased from two to nine per week to meet the high demand from community residents. Carter, along with Eula Green, Extension educator, and Lovie Carter, Extension associate (LU-CEOP), and other community participants, have collectively distributed approximately 2 million pounds of produce to more than 117,950 families. All this with support by a great volunteer force, partnerships and donations from the local BAMA corporation.
Leading the future for community transparency of Sikeston, Missouri
The Lincoln University Cooperative Extension (LUCE) Community Development Program is collaborating with the African American community, law enforcement, religious groups, local businesses and other groups to make change happen in Sikeston. This article highlights two programs Darrell Martin Sr., research assistant in the (LUCE) Community Development program, is taking proactive measures to accomplish.
The LUCE program and the United Gospel Rescue Mission are conducting a Life and Job Skills Readiness Program, which assists men facing various life problems. More than 6,000 men have participated in this training, which requires 10 months of learning life skills and putting them into action. Eric Strawhun, featured in the article, is a living example of what the Life and Job Skills Readiness Program is capable of accomplishing.
The Black Lives Matter movement and the deaths of African Americans at the hands of police have made race relations a nationwide discussion. Sikeston is dealing with similar issues; resignation of a police officer for posting racially incentive materials and a negative Attorney General report, to name a few. The Department of Justice requested assistance from the LUCE to facilitate meetings with the Sikeston Public Safety Department aimed at strengthening police and community relations.
Conference focuses on leadership in times of change
During a year that has required changes in how we work, gather with friends and family, and educate our children, the Grassroots Leadership Conference (GLC) brought a message of inspiration and empowerment to community leaders and volunteers.
Offered annually by Cooperative Extension at North Carolina A&T State University in collaboration with the Extension at A&T Strategic Planning Council, the conference brought together about 150 grassroots leaders to discuss issues of equity that affect their communities and to strategize on equitable solutions to community problems. GLC 2020, with the theme of Creating Equitable Solutions for Stronger Communities, was held virtually on Oct. 22 and included attendees from across North Carolina, including local government officials, leaders of nonprofits and community groups, volunteers and Extension staff.
“Identifying strategies aimed at solving community issues has always been the focus of this conference, and that was paramount this year,” said Dr. Michelle Eley, community and economic development specialist with Extension at N.C. A&T. “With COVID and everything else we’ve been facing this year, people were feeling stressed and were kind of making it day by day. Our focus was to engage with them and identify skills and strategies that can help them make a meaningful impact in their communities.”
PVAMU’S TRWA puts people to work
The numbers are in, and they indicate Prairie View A&M University’s pilot program, The Rural Workforce Academy (TRWA), is making an impact. TRWA is a Community Economic and Development unit (CED) program that addresses rebuilding and recovery efforts in rural areas struck by recent disasters such as Hurricane Harvey and the COVID-19 pandemic. The program began in August 2020. It has provided rural county residents with practical skills training that includes a seven-week welding, an 11-week electrical installer and service technician, a four-week core construction or a five-week certified nursing assistant program.
Before launch, 1,510 applied, 280 people were interviewed, 222 were accepted into the program, and to date, 53 people in four skill training classes have completed training, earned certification, and are working. CED Program Specialist Justina Shaw oversees the daily operation of TRWA.
Shaw said, “TRWA’s team is propelled by the adoption of the skill training program in the Waller and Liberty counties. Our partnership with community leaders has allowed our outreach and marketing efforts to reach thousands of residents and potential participants. The community embraces this program with tremendous appreciation and have worked as champions to make us a success.”
The TRWA is a collaboration of the U.S. Economic Development Administration Department of Commerce and Prairie View A&M University, the city of Prairie View and the city of Cleveland. The EDA-2018-Disaster appropriations provided funding for the $1 million pilot program. For more information about the TRWA, contact Justina Shaw at email@example.com or 936-261-5165.
SC State 1890 Extension assists local business in keeping workforce employed
Small businesses are reeling from the unavoidable effects of COVID-19. The global pandemic has impacted the revenue of an untold number of small businesses as customers were required to stay home as a safety precaution. Consequently, many businesses were forced to close, either temporarily or permanently. Despite the virus limiting in-person programming, SC State University 1890 Extension continued its efforts to provide outreach services for South Carolinians facing challenges by assisting a local business.
Deborah Hardison, regional director for the 1890 Extension Pee Dee region, assisted Michael Cain, owner of BTU Rest Home, in securing a loan through the federally backed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The funding provided assistance to the Bennettsville, South Carolina, business, which helped to keep Cain’s employees working while the virus impacted the state.
“Once I received an alert about the Small Business Administration (SBA) stimulus opportunities, I immediately informed Cain because I knew he was a small business owner who had essential employees,” said Hardison.
“It was a lifesaver getting approved for the PPP [loan] and maintaining payroll for my employees,” said Cain, who’s family-owned business has been operating since 1970. “We operate 24/7, so it was vital that I did not lose any staff. I am grateful for Deborah and her assistance in securing the loan. It is important to have programs like 1890 Extension, because it serves as a valuable resource for community businesses like BTU, especially during times like these during the pandemic.”
SU Ag Center discusses the importance of the Census during a virtual workshop
The Southern University Ag Center and the Louisiana Tri-Parish Alumnae (LTP) Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. held a virtual Census workshop called Counting Small Towns is a Big Deal.
More than 4,000 individuals viewed the workshop, which was live-streamed on the Facebook pages of the Southern University Ag Center and the LTP, as well as through the Cisco WebEx virtual format.
Gerald Williams, SU Ag Center Community and Economic Development assistant specialist, was the speaker for the Aug. 4, 2020, event. Viewers were provided with information on how data from the Census is used to determine how billions of federal funds are distributed to fund programs and services for the next 10 years.
Louisiana residents, especially those individuals residing within rural communities, were asked to complete the 2020 Census to ensure the families in the state’s small towns and communities were counted.
The Southern University Ag Center will continue to partner with community and faith-based organizations to provide its clientele with information and services to help them live successful and productive lives.
TSU Drone Program covers more ground amid pandemic
By Jason de Koff
The Tennessee State University Drone Program, which started in 2018 from a USDA-NIFA grant awarded to Dr. Jason de Koff, focuses on teaching farmers how they can use drones in agriculture. Drones already have proven to be a farmer’s friend by covering acreage more quickly and identifying crop issues faster. Some farmers have even used drones to show insurance adjusters where fields have been damaged by inclement weather.
In 2020, de Koff had the opportunity to provide hands-on training to farmers in seven counties in Tennessee right before the pandemic began. At these workshops, farmers learned about the different uses in agriculture for drones, different drone options and costs, and federal regulations mandating drone usage. Farmers also had the opportunity to test drive a Phantom 4 drone.
“I think farmers really get a sense of the things they can do once they get their hands on one and see how easy they are to use,” de Koff said. “Some of the farmers were unsure about them at first because they were concerned they might crash them.”
Workshop evaluations found most respondents felt drones were not as difficult to fly as they originally thought, and they had an increased interest in purchasing a drone within the next two years because of the program. For most drones used in agriculture, a pilot needs to be FAA certified. The TSU Drone Program provides this certification training through an on-the-ground course, as well as online. For more information about the program, contact de Koff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Booker T. Washington Economic Summit helps businesses stay viable in challenging times
Initiated during the 100th anniversary of our first president's opening speech at the States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sept. 18, 1895, the vision for the economic development summit was to capture the essence of Washington's Exposition speech and use it as a foundation for development in the Black Belt region. It has consistently promoted entrepreneurship and community economic development in small towns, the southern region and America.
This year's summit had three main focuses for this time of economic uncertainty – access to capital, digital marketing and risk management. Access to capital provided information for potential and current entrepreneurs and business owners to find public and private funding sources. Digital marketing was a dialogue about the benefits of digital marketing and its necessity for businesses during critical times, including the current pandemic. Addressing broadband access, especially for rural communities, is key to the digital discussion. Risk management focused on dealing with the challenges that COVID-19 has presented. How to adapt and transition during this time are key takeaways from this session.
The Booker T. Washington Economic Summit is part of the Community Resources and Economic Development Extension & Research planned program area that focuses on enhancing financial security and better management of available resources for individuals and families, start-up micro-entrepreneurs and communities. View part of the virtual summit.
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.
Over the course of donation efforts, staff members of UAPB’s 1890 Cooperative Extension Program have provided administrators of community organizations with instructions on how to store and cook the sweet potatoes, which are an excellent source of Vitamin A and fiber.
According to Marcie Johnson, drug court counselor, Pine Bluff Adult Probation enhances public safety by enforcing state laws and court mandates through community partnerships and evidence-based programs that hold offenders accountable while engaging them in opportunities to become law-abiding, productive citizens.
“Our clients took home some sweet potatoes, which helped them feed their families,” she said. “The donation helped extend their food budget. Plus, they were excited to try the various recipes they were given.”
Cook, face of ALEI at UMES
The Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI) is an alliance formed under the University of Maryland: MPowering The State banner that combines the expertise and efforts of three distinguished Maryland institutions: the Francis King Carey School of Law at the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland, College Park; and the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
ALEI was established in 2013 as the result of a challenge offered by the Maryland General Assembly in 2011... “preserve Maryland's family farms by helping their owners address the complicated legal issues associated with agricultural estates and trusts, regulatory compliance and other agricultural law issues.”
Nicole Cook serves as environmental and agricultural faculty legal specialist for UMES Extension, a position for which she says her legal education, practice experience and time as a public educator prepared her. Recently Cook created MyFaRM, an outreach program that involves a series of free classes for farmers on the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland. Each farmer will receive assistance in developing risk management plans that cover the unique needs of their individual farms.
Urban Ag Center growing a sense of community
There is something growing year-round at the Harding Street Urban Ag Center in Petersburg, Virginia. But it’s what you can’t see growing that makes the center a success and a unique model for sustainable urban agriculture.
The center’s mission is to combat food insecurity in underserved communities in the city and to conduct educational programming in urban agriculture, nutrition and entrepreneurship. The center, part of the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) at Virginia State University (VSU), is quietly tucked away at 453 Harding Street in a residential area.
Inside the historic building are climate-controlled food production rooms where traditional vegetables are grown using soilless media and solar panels. Outside are community gardens and orchards where residents can plant their own produce or volunteer to help maintain the gardens that supply food to those in need. But also growing is a sense of community, partnership, pride and hope. The center is changing the landscape in the city in terms of collaborative community outreach efforts, bringing together city government, residents and diverse community organizations to address food insecurity.
“In order to do community building, there has to be collaboration. One organization can’t do it alone. It takes volunteers, community members, nonprofit organizations, farmers and businesses. That’s how we make it work,” said Cynthia Martin, program director and coordinator for the center.
Virginia Cooperative Extension extends the resources of Virginia's two land-grant universities, Virginia State University and Virginia Tech, to solve problems facing Virginians every day.
West Virginia State University Extension Service celebrates history through public art
West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Service is creating a public art mural to foster community engagement and celebrate the history – and the future – of a West Virginia town.
The mural depicts historic photos from Montgomery, West Virginia’s past in a film strip design. Developed on a grid system by Extension Agent Adam Hodges, the image was drawn out onto a building and is being painted with a system akin to a paint-by-number format, making it easier for community members to have a hand in the creation of a lasting tribute to the town’s history and its future.
“The benefits of public art projects like this are threefold. First of all, it’s art – it’s a thing of beauty in the community for everyone to enjoy. Secondly, it’s a way to visually honor the history of a community while embracing future potential. And finally, it creates a sense of community in a very direct way, with multiple people coming together to work on a project for the common good.”
Community members have been working together on the mural throughout the fall, with plans to have it completed in December.