What Does the Extension Service Do For YOU?

I received this forward from a colleague this morning – http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/11/farm-bill-ag-extension/.  It’s an article about how agriculture extension, the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and the Farm Bill all affect our lives on a daily basis even though we may not realize it.  (By the way, it’s from a great magazine called Wired – and it’s my husband’s subscription.  Which explains why I never saw this issue…magazines disappear in my house.)

Kudos to the author, Gwen Pearson for writing this article because although I am preaching to the choir for this blog’s audience, the majority of Americans don’t understand the extension service and all that we do.  My daily routine does have a lot of computer time, and not as much field work or face time with growers as I would like.  However, as extension specialists, our goals are to conduct research that addresses production challenges in the region/state and crop that we work with.  But, without stable funding, most of our time is spent writing grants to fund our applied research and support the people that help us do that work.  Deep down, all of us in extension really want to help people. (I would love to be a nurse, but I can’t stand blood or hurting people).

In this time of extra reporting for government jobs, it’s often difficult to write discrete statements about what extension accomplishes on a day by day basis.  We in extension, are often modest individuals that don’t trumpet our successes, yet – we are bearers of economic successes.  It’s the extra information that we deliver that helps a grower make decisions that result in profitability.  Yet, we in extension are not the first ones they call when they make that extra $1,000 per acre or 25% increase in yearly profits because of the information they received from the extension service.  Yet these success stories are exceedingly important to our progress reports for our Universities and States/National government that fund Extension through Smith/Lever funds and Hatch research funds to prove we making an impact.

We are also the bearers of life-changing information – in our 4-H agents and health and nutrition programs.  Do you have a child that has sold an animal as part of the 4-H program?  Those funds that kids get are often used for college and other educational endeavors that maybe their families can’t fund themselves.  One lamb even sold for over $80,000!  University of Florida, and IFAS Extension in particular offer Solutions for Your Life like keeping your New Year’s resolution, or caring for an aging parent or spouse, or even transitioning farms to family members to keep agriculture alive in each generation.

Finally, we help citizens prepare for disaster and recovery.  One great example of this is the work that UF Extension did with members of the community of Live Oak to recover after the flooding damage caused by Tropical Storm Debby in 2012.  This storm sticks out in my mind because was the first big party with a bouncy house for my daughter’s fifth birthday, yet it was cancelled because of TS Debby.  Although it dumped massive amounts of rain, many people evacuated and were safe.  However, the storm caused significant damage and Suwannee County Extension worked with citizens to develop a recovery plan.

So, I guess the question is for everyone in our communities – what does the Extension Service do for YOU?


An Introduction…

mercy&pctAugust, 2009

This is the first installment in the “Just Peachy in Florida” Blog as I start my career in stone fruit research and extension at the University of Florida.

Having a blog is a bit new for me, but as my family will tell those reading this, I am well-versed in Facebook; so letting growers know what is going on in the orchard world should be no problem!

My background in stone fruit all stems from a chance encounter in Washington State where I studied for my Master’s degree in viticulture.  During the early months of my research, I met my husband who was studying in plant genetics and breeding (M.S.) at the time.  After we got married, we started at Michigan State University on our Ph.D.s, and I had the opportunity to concentrate on stone fruit production.  It was a great project examining dwarfing rootstocks and the changes in carbohydrate concentration and vasculature around the graft union in sweet cherry rootstocks.  I was successful in publishing two articles, with a third in the review process.

Mercy Olmstead in VineyardAfter graduation, I accepted a position back at Washington State University as a viticulture extension specialist.  It was a wonderful opportunity to be back in the area with my husband’s family, but after 5 years, a job opportunity came up for my husband and I here at the University of Florida.

It has been so exciting to use my stone fruit knowledge again, and to work with rootstock systems.  I have always had so many questions from a basic science perspective about rootstock systems, since my first class in fruit production at MSU.  I am very excited to be on the “front end” of an industry where I have the chance to make a great impact, and I will work tirelessly to see the stone fruit industry succeed in Florida. Peter Olmstead Cherry Orchard

I believe in open communication and I strive to get the information that the growers need as soon as possible in the form that best meets their needs.  Publishing extension bulletins, this web page, presenting at meetings, face-to-face contacts, and phone calls are some of the ways that I anticipate getting that information to the growers.  If anyone has questions about stone fruit production and its potential here in Florida – please don’t hesitate to ask me.