Extension TodayNews from and about the 1890 Land-Grant Extension System
Message from the Chair
Vonda Richardson Extension Administrator, Florida A&M University
Extension Today is a monthly, digital newsletter intended to highlight 1890 Cooperative Extension and provide updates across the 1890 land-grant system. In this edition of Extension Today, we are highlighting 1890 Extension programs in community and economic development.
1890 Extension has been on the front lines in engagement and supporting communities through social and economic development efforts. Many of our programs promote and implement strategic plans and assistance for communities to invest in themselves. Extension brings public and private partners within communities to have these very important conversations. Our footprint in communities is active and impressive.
I invite you to explore the varied educational programs, applied research and outreach by our very talented Extension experts at our institutions.
BCI: A boost for entrepreneurs
Jon Jacobson, community resource development agent, is busy providing a boost to entrepreneurs in Jefferson County, Alabama. Last year, Jacobson started the Birmingham Community Incubator (BCI) program in partnership with the Salvation Army Command Center, The East Lake Initiative and the city of Birmingham, Alabama.
Initially, more than $6,000 was provided by The East Lake Initiative and the city of Birmingham to support program participants through the six-week BCI course. To date, 14 business owners have completed the program.
For example, BCI graduate Josilyn Drake enrolled in a cohort with the idea of offering STREAM and robotics classes to children of all ages. Through intense program training and mentorship, she not only started her own business called STREAMnasium but is booking classes for people in three age brackets. Additionally, Drake will offer these courses to Birmingham high school students in advanced placement business classes.
As a result of the BCI program’s success, $15,000 in additional funds was awarded to reach 24 to 36 new and emerging business owners in the East Lake and Woodlawn Burroughs of Birmingham, Alabama. Jacobson is also collaborating with the Alabama Economic Diversity Council’s Phase II programming funded by the Kellogg Foundation to train women, Black and Hispanic business owners. More than 500 businesses are now registered for programming that will begin in February 2023.
Farm Service Agency (FSA) borrowers training
The ASUEP Small Farm Outreach Project provided three structural courses on Farm and Financial Management and Production Agriculture to Farm Service Agency (FSA) borrowers throughout Mississippi. The training is designed to increase profitability and prepare farmers for sustainability using real-world problems through practical exercise and application.
Borrowers must obtain a passing score of 70 to meet the requirements for borrowers training outlined by FSA guidelines. The training aims to increase knowledge in financial management and production agriculture. The topics presented were Livestock and Crop Production, Record Keeping, Farm Management, Farm Safety, Credit Management, FSA Loan Application and Estate Planning.
Borrowers were introduced to current tools and methods, which assisted them in farming practices and minimized farm risks. Borrowers gained skills and an understanding of the application process by completing 12 hours of Farm and Financial Management, six hours of Crop Production, and six hours of Livestock Production. Upon completion, the borrowers received a certificate of completion. This certification qualifies the borrowers to receive additional funding from USDA FSA.
USDA FSA issued more than $500,290 in funding for borrowers to increase their farm operation, purchase equipment and additional land, and increase profit. For additional information, contact Carolyn Banks, agricultural business management specialist, at (601) 877-6260 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FAMU Extension pilots program to help communities address land use issues
Local land use planning and zoning directly affect many critical factors that shape communities, including affordable housing, access to good schools and quality of public safety. Local citizens, especially members of historically underserved groups, may feel removed from land use decisions in their communities.
Community Voices, Informed Choices (CIVIC), a partnership between Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and the University of Florida, uses deliberative forums as its primary activity. CIVIC recognized the importance of having a diversity of perspectives in land use decisions.
Through CIVIC, a pilot program was launched to engage community leadership and the public in deliberative discussions about the best ways to use land based on different approaches with various gains and losses. These discussions reflected on economic, environmental and individual needs around land use in local communities. Forums were held in three historically black neighborhoods in Florida.
As a result, we learned that partnerships with community organizations and leaders are essential to successful forums. In addition, cultural and historical realities are unique and of vital importance to the discussions of land use and land use changes in these communities.
Time for an upgrade
The Twiggs County Fort Valley State University Extension Program has offered gardening, healthy eating and fitness programs to the Twiggs County Senior Center for 12 years.
FVSU partnered with Mercer University 10 years ago and provided raised beds for the center. Over the years, the wooden beds began to deteriorate, and it was time for an upgrade, said Terralon Chaney, family and consumer sciences Extension agent for Twiggs County.
“A few calls and emails were sent to our program leader, and the seniors were provided with a new metal trough. That way the trough will last for many years to come,” she said. “Thanks to Minton Lawn and Garden, our troughs, compost, wheat straw and fertilizer were expedited.” Chaney added, “The gardeners at the center were so excited and grateful. They were ready to set up and get their plants and seeds planted for the winter.”
Experienced gardeners Eloise Boyd and Margarite Bond led the project. Currently, the planters have collards, kale, turnips and cabbages planted. Commissioner Lonnie Ford of District 1 stopped by to assist in the setup and getting the garden ready.
Kentucky State Cooperative Extension educates about estate planning, wills, other economic decisions
Through a series of workshops, Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension personnel and invited experts educated stakeholders about economic topics ranging from estate planning to creating a will to renting or buying a house.
These educational opportunities are meeting a great need, as 61 percent of Americans don’t have a last will and testament, and more than 77 percent of African Americans say they don’t have a will or have completed any estate planning tasks, according to Consumer Reports.
One such workshop on Oct. 1, 2022, educated 22 attendees about creating a will. The main objective was to discuss the importance of creating your will and living will. A local attorney who specializes in estate planning presented information regarding wills, trusts, living wills and power of attorney options. At the end of the presentation, he gave away certificates for five free wills and offered everyone else a will and living will package for $99. Eighteen participants made appointments that morning to create their will in the next month.
Broadening agricultural, cultural insights in Jamaica
Faculty and students at Langston University’s Sherman Lewis School of Agriculture & Applied Sciences recently completed a successful week-long study abroad trip to Kingston and Port Antonio, Jamaica. The objective of the 2022 Travel Abroad Student-Study Program is to broaden students’ insights into international agriculture communities and provide cultural exposure.
The team visited and toured four parishes (St. Catherine, St. Clarendon, Portland and St. Mary) in Jamaica from Dec. 4-11, 2022. Student participants included Angelina Lindert (junior, animal science), Kayla Smith (junior, crop and soil science), and Quentin Sparrow and Sterling Warren (sophomores, agribusiness). Faculty chaperones in attendance were Dr. Terry Gipson (Extension administrator), Dr. Roger Merkel (assistant professor, animal science) and Cayla Moore, MA (institutional programs and curriculum associate). Partial funding for the Travel Abroad Student-Study Program was provided through a grant supported by the Centers of Excellence (COE).
Insightful tours included the Best Dressed Chicken Further Processing Plant and Feed Mill Facility, College of Agricultural Science and Education (CASE), A Maroon Village, Devon’s Coffee Ranch on Blue Mountain and the Bob Marley Museum. Additionally, tours on three local Green Bottom Farms allowed observation of each location's analysis of production costs on feed and nutrition to produce healthy crops and livestock.
“I truly will be encouraging others to participate and have fun while learning how much better of a person they can become for themselves and the world,” said Warren.
LUCE Gardening Entrepreneurship generating solutions, building community
Since 2020, the Lincoln University Cooperative Extension (LUCE) Gardening Entrepreneurship Program has continued to offer education and tools to limited-resource small farmers and anyone interested in farming to successfully start and sustain their gardens while making an economic impact in their communities.
Dr. Eleazar Gonzalez, agriculture and economics marketing state specialist at LUCE, created the program as people began seeking ways to grow their own food to create food security, decrease food expenses and find ways to safely socialize during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program offers a blend of online training and onsite gardening activities for stakeholders who lacked the knowledge or resources to start their own gardens.
Gonzalez and a team of LU Extension specialists taught on topics ranging from garden design, tools, production process, soil health, plant selection, pest management and harvesting to preservation methods and marketing and sales of produce. They also helped participants select placement for their gardens, till and design the gardens, and provide soil.
The goal is to help farmers develop their capacity and skills so that they can make contributions to their community and local economy.
Leading from the heart: Conference inspires N.C. community leaders
Community leadership takes commitment, resilience, an understanding of the truth about local challenges, and most importantly, a pledge to work with others to create positive change.
“Nobody is talented enough to do it alone,” said Brandon Pitman, a member of the Cooperative Extension Strategic Planning Council. “You have to work hard, and you have to work with other people. When you bring people together, it makes it easier.”
Pitman was one of about 100 North Carolinians who attended the 2022 Grassroots Leader Conference, held Nov. 2 at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center by Cooperative Extension at N.C. A&T. Each year, the conference brings together elected and civic leaders, volunteers, Extension professionals and audiences, farmers and business owners, families and youth to network, learn about community development initiatives, and identify strategies that support equitable decision-making and problem-solving in their communities.
With the theme of Developing Community Resilience through Grassroots Empowerment, the one-day event focused on discussions and strategies for grassroots leadership in rural areas and the importance of developing skills that can be used to help and empower others. The conference featured breakout sessions on capacity building, resiliency for small farmers, and creating pathways and connections for community change.
Broadband equity: Extension’s role in bridging digital divide
By Krystle J. Allen, Ph.D.
Cooperative Extension is outreach, but how do we immediately reach those who are in areas with very poor, limited or no broadband internet access? Extension’s history of working to improve the lives of rural and low-resource communities positions us to help bridge the digital divide within these communities.
Recently, the Southern University Ag Center’s Community and Economic Development unit collaborated with the Louisiana Board of Regents, Capital Region Planning Committee and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette - Kathleen Blanco Public Policy Center to host a Regional Broadband/Digital Equity Tour. This outreach event invited stakeholders from the following parishes: East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, Tangipahoa, Washington, East, and West Feliciana.
Recognizing that digital equity and broadband are complicated issues in several areas throughout the state, stakeholders were invited to share their experiences and outlook on deficits, resources, as well as community needs and assets. The interactive session allowed everyone the space to share where we are as a state/community (current needs) and a vision for a connected future (regional infrastructure), as well as the numerous benefits. The benefits ranged from increased job opportunities by access to remote work to improved school performance in K-12 children.
For additional information on this program, contact Krystle Allen, Ph.D., at email@example.com.
Tennessee State University Extension supports small farmers’ economic development
The vision of the Tennessee State University Cooperative Extension is to be a leader in outreach educational programs that boost community and economic development. TSU’s Cooperative Extension service offers programming in forestry, goats and small ruminants, pest management, child development, nutrition education and food safety, and many other topics relevant to the vitality of Tennessee communities.
One of the premier events of TSU’s Cooperative Extension is the Small Farm Expo, held every September. Programming for this one-day event provides small farmers with knowledge in meat goat production, beekeeping, organic agriculture, backyard poultry production and industrial hemp. In addition to supporting farmers’ economic development through training in these areas, small farms that have shown great improvement or impact in their community are recognized each year and given cash awards to further improve their operations.
The 2022 Most Improved Beginning Farmer recognized at TSU’s Small Farm Expo was Bobby Rich of Black Seeds Urban Farms LLC in Memphis, Tennessee. Rich was awarded $1,000 for his farm’s improvement.
The 2023 Small Farm Expo will be held on Sept. 7, 2023, at the Tennessee State University Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
UAPB Extension educators work to address hunger in Arkansas
In central and southern Arkansas, one in five people are food insecure, according to Teresa Henson, Extension specialist-program outreach coordinator for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.
“Food insecure Arkansans struggle to provide adequate and nutritious food for themselves and their families,” Henson said. “In some rural areas, one in four children is faced with hunger. These alarming numbers have placed Arkansas second in the nation for food insecurity.”
UAPB’s Extension family and consumer sciences educators provide nutritional information and materials to agencies, food pantries and food banks to address hunger in Jefferson, Pulaski, Ashley and Monroe counties, Henson said.
“The educators provide nutritional lessons that address ways for participants to make their food stretch to the end of the month, ways to prepare healthy meals with the food boxes they receive from pantries or food banks, and how to stock up on kitchen staples like rice, pasta, potatoes, beans, dry milk and oatmeal,” she said. “Those staples can be prepared, and multiple meals can be frozen for their families.”
The educators also provide information about SNAP-Ed benefits or WIC for pregnant women, Henson said. They also provide pantries, food banks and agencies with low-cost recipes and nutritional handouts to place in food boxes and on display tables for individuals to receive and pick up.
UMES Extension project aims to enhance agritourism in Maryland
Approximately 2 million acres (32 percent) of the total land assets in Maryland in 2021 were dedicated to agriculture. Agritourism is a significant beneficiary of this distribution of land assets. However, it has received a limited share of its contribution to the sustainability of farming in Maryland.
Many small- and medium-scale farms depend on agritourism as a secondary income-producing mechanism. These farms are increasingly generating a more significant percentage of total income from off-farm agritourism activities. Investments in agritourism also enhance the diversification of local economies, assist in the retention of agricultural communities and help build historical and cultural festivities.
In 2018, UMES Extension embarked on a program, the Maryland Agritourism Baseline Development Project, to collate information on agritourism spread and development. The project received a boost that same year with the passage of Maryland House Bill 252 that defined a framework for agritourism characterization and regulation.
Project activities to date include a webinar, surveys and an international poster with the intention of further providing informational outreach programs and electronic database tools for farmers/agritourism operators and residents in Maryland. A report on the spread and typology of agritourism services across the state was also compiled. UMES Extension is currently organizing an agritourism conference tentatively scheduled for fall 2023.
Dr. Enrique Nelson Escobar, associate dean for UMES Extension, said, “The goal is to encourage shared access to information about policies, challenges, opportunities, innovations and strategies for continuous advancement and successful agritourism development.” Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the full report.
Chase City community gardens flourish
One person with vision, passion and expertise has the ability to develop supporters and make a huge impact in a community. Wanda Johnson is such a person. This Small Farm Outreach Program state program assistant yearned to transform derelict vacant lots in Chase City, Mecklenburg County, Virginia, into valuable community gardens that provide fresh seasonal herbs and vegetables to neighbors, beautify the area and foster pride and enjoyment. But, she needed help.
Her efforts rapidly earned support from town leaders, individuals, businesses and institutions. Partnering with the Town of Chase City, Virginia State University College of Agriculture, Virginia Cooperative Extension Small Farm Outreach Program and colleagues from VSU and Virginia Tech made her dream a reality. Fifth Street Community Gardens was established on a town-owned double lot, and Mary Wood Food Forest was established on a double lot donated in memory of its namesake. Residents enjoyed the harvests, camaraderie and beauty. Passers-by smiled, waved, honked horns and offered compliments.
“The community enabled the establishment of this garden and food forest in Chase City,” said Johnson. “We always welcome ideas, partnerships and donations.”
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.
WVSU Extension educator strives to improve tourism, economic industries in southern WV
By Alisha Jarrett
West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension educator Chris Zeto specializes in community and economic development in Logan County and has partnered with the Hatfield-McCoy Trails, which cover 10 trail systems in seven counties.
He has a clientele of roughly 130 non-traditional entrepreneurs who own lodging facilities, cabins and houses. He provides them with educational information about tasks such as website management, advertising and producing printed materials.
Zeto consistently assisted 155 existing businesses and gained 17 new contacts throughout 2022. These services included specific one-on-one business training sessions, marketing assistance, tourism development, general business assistance, resource and funding opportunities, website development, community outreach and relationship building, and social media assistance.
“I often serve as a point of contact for my clients. If I cannot personally assist them with the solutions they need, I match them up with someone who can,” Zeto explained.
He is also passionate about growing the tourism industry in southern West Virginia. “My goal is to educate our communities, continue supporting and improving existing businesses, and strengthen opportunities for future growth,” he said.