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2011 December Thoughts on Extension: 3

2011 December Thoughts on Extension

December 22, 2011

In this issue

President Capilouto’s remarks to KACAA

SNAP-ED Commitment Hours – How Are We Doing?

Transitions

Reflections

President Capilouto’s remarks to KACAA

There has been much discussion about President Capilouto’s understanding of the land grant mission and of the College of Agriculture. I am happy to relate to you that President Capilouto has consistently affirmed the mission and the nature of the land grant university, and in particular the Cooperative Extension Service. President Capilouto recently addressed the board of the KACAA (Kentucky Association of County Agricultural Agents) at their invitation. The focus of his remarks is worth recounting here.

President Capilouto said that in his first job as a practicing dentist, he learned very quickly that he could do more by working at the community level than one patient at a time. In his doctoral program in public health, he told of learning the importance of listening to the needs of the community they were trying to serve. He talked about observing a doctor trying to implement a program of HIV education and outreach to a community only to discover that parents were more concerned about their children being harmed by community violence.

He spoke of the land grant mission of the University being a promise to work so that Kentucky’s tomorrow is brighter than the past. He also spoke of the need to adapt and change to remain relevant.

President Capilouto’s response to one particular question was especially insightful. When asked what he wanted Cooperative Extension to do, he said he learned a long time ago to trust the people on the ground to know their business, to trust the process, and to be accountable.

These comments confirm to me that we have a President who understands the land grant mission and of the role of the Cooperative Extension Service, and who sees the mission of the University of Kentucky as being to transform lives.

Trust the people, trust the process, and be accountable. Sounds like a good plan to me.

SNAP-ED Commitment Hours – How Are We Doing?

Supplied by Leslie McCammish (12/14/11)

SNAP-Ed summary information:

Agent Hours Completed/% of total 8,345 hours/ 17%

Hours Remaining/% of total 41,823 hours/ 83%

Months Remaining/% of year 10/ 83%

Grant Income to Date $242,005

Transitions

New Placements: Joan Martin – Anderson FCS (12/01/11); W. Ashley (Ashley ) Adkins – Clay 4-H (12/18/2011).

Retirements: Nelda Moore – Jefferson FCS (01/03/12); Deborah Hill – Forestry Extension Faculty (01/04/12).

Transfers: Mike Meyer – Franklin 4-H to Harrison 4-H (01/01/12).

Resignations: Lori Rice – Woodford FCS (12/05/11); Suellen Zornes – Boyd FCS (12/31/11, from post-retirement); Felicia Ferrell – Fleming 4-H (01/02/12); Patti Meads – Woodford HORT (01/02/12).

Reflections

The other day, I recalled an inauspicious moment early in my professional career as a forage extension specialist at the University of Missouri. Within weeks of being on the job, there was a major conference in northwestern Missouri to which many of my professors were coming. I was really looking forward to attending as ‘one of them’, a forage agronomist in a state with 4 million cows and calves, and where forage crops were very important.

My euphoria of self-importance evaporated when one of my Georgia professors, Dr. Carl Hoveland commented about all of the uncut hay he saw in North Missouri during his drive to the conference. He was disturbed that he saw literally thousands of acres of cool season grass fully headed out, overdue for harvesting with quality declining every day. He told me, “You’ve got a lot to do, young man!” I can remember thinking, “I Aam in charge of that??”

Carl’s message to me was that the goal is not having the job but being effective in the job. And effective to him that day was related to cutting hay on time. He opened my eyes to the real world of Extension (and uncut hay!) and started a long painful education that being effective is much more than conducting educational programs. I would wager that a great many of the farmers who had the fields of over-mature hay had been told many times of the optimum time to cut hay. Yet, there stood thousands of acres of testimony to the fact that just knowing is not enough.

In President Capilouto’s words, we need to know our business, to know the process and to be accountable. For me, certainly knowing when to cut hay was my business, but so was the more complex question of how to have the needed quality and quantity of feed for a cow herd to make it through the winter. I now know that the ‘answer’ to making hay during rainy weather might not be as much about cutting exactly on time, but making the best compromise given many conflicting variables.

Over time, I learned the process of changing farmer’s practices about cutting date involved first showing the importance of knowing the quality of their hay by getting it tested. The hay testing program showed farmers that many factors affected hay quality, including species, percentage of legumes, type of storage, and yes, even cutting date.

Many of you have recently gone through a performance appraisal discussion, and I’ll bet that effectiveness and impact was a topic of discussion. I also know that we use the indirect measures of contacts, meetings, papers, presentations, web hits and so on. Judging effectiveness from these indirect measures is subjective at best. We make the best case for our effectiveness when we can show improved lives, improved profitability, and/or desired changes in practices or life choices.

What is the priority outcome your leaders, clients or communities are asking for? I’d bet that it is more complicated than the optimum stage at which to cut hay (you could Google that). I’d also bet you are actively programming to meet that priority need. I challenge you to get curious about whether anyone is adopting your recommendations. That is the ultimate measure of the effectiveness of a program.

Knowing our business, knowing the process, and being accountable. That is a pretty good plan.

Thanks for all you do.

Comments

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