This week, I am taking a break from the garden to answer the question that I get asked more than any other: What is Extension?
To put it in context, I hear this question right after I say that I am an Extension Agent, or that I work for K-State Research and Extension.
Let me spare you from the names and descriptions of federal laws from the 1800s. Have you heard of Master Gardeners? We do that. Or maybe you know someone whose children are in 4-H — we do that, too.
Master Gardeners and 4-H programs are just a couple of the ways Extension provides education that is accessible to all county residents. We have printed and electronic resources in our office and on our website — on everything from how to plant a tree to how to make better choices at the grocery store.
In Kansas, our Extension agents and specialists can usually help with agriculture, horticulture, natural resources, food safety and nutrition-related problems. Our goals include helping to sustain agricultural production systems and helping to ensure an abundant and safe food supply.
The K-State Research and Extension office in Douglas County is located on the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, 2110 Harper St., Lawrence.
You are welcome to stop by and browse through our shelves of printed resources from Kansas State University, which are mostly available free of charge.
If you would rather, all of those printed resources are available online through our website, douglas.ksu.edu. You can also link to the main K-State Research and Extension site, where there is additional information including short instructional videos, podcasts, etc.
The part I think is more important than all of the brochures, videos, etc., are the workshops and classes we do here in the community and all of the volunteers that help make our programs happen. Here are some highlights from the past year:
• Approximately 550 volunteers through 4-H, Master Gardeners, Master Food Volunteers, Family and Community Education and the Douglas County Fair. Their value to Douglas County is about $475,000.
• 150 Master Gardeners plus 21 new trainees who answer questions on the Horticulture Hotline; partner with Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence to lead a Junior Master Gardener program for youth; maintain Demonstration Gardens at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, Monarch Waystation No. 1 and Tom Swan Park in Baldwin City; help transport about 26,000 pounds of fresh produce to Just Food pantry; organize the biannual Garden Tour and Spring Garden Fair; and participate in a number of other activities.
• Worked with about 420 youth 4-H members. 4-H helps youth develop a positive self-concept, learn sound decision-making skills and develop positive interpersonal relationships.
• The Family Nutrition Program collaborated with a number of Lawrence and Douglas County agencies to provide nutrition education to 2,600 SNAP-eligible youth and adults. Participants learn how to choose and prepare nutritious meals and snacks, balance food with physical activity, handle and store food safely, and manage food dollars.
• Recommendations were provided to Douglas County residents for 850 soil samples based on analyses from K-State’s Soil Testing Lab.
• Agricultural producers participated in training on: rotational grazing to improve pasture health and management, lower fertilizer needs and runoff, and enable producers to graze more livestock on the same acreage; cover crops to improve soil health, benefit wildlife and provide extra forage for livestock; high tunnel construction for season extension and increased production; and on-farm food safety issues.
• About 1,200 area residents participate in workshops and presentations to learn to grow, prepare and preserve their own food and be more productive gardeners.
There are Extension programs in all 50 states, and they are always managed through the land-grant university(s) in each state.