By Karen Lynn Poff
Senior Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences
I often hear people say that Virginia Cooperative Extension is one of our Commonwealth's "best kept secrets." You may even regularly read this blog and not be aware of our many programs. You may wonder, what is Extension, how is it funded, and why does it matter to me?
What is Extension?
Extension was established in 1914 to provide educational programs and information in the areas of agriculture, family and consumer sciences and 4-H youth. We take the research from the land-grant universities (Virginia Tech and Virginia State University) and bring it to the people in your community. You may not want to study engineering, but you may want to know how the latest nutrition research can improve your family's health. You may not need a degree in business, but you may need to find out how the new credit card and overdraft regulations will impact your family's finances. If you want to find ways to make life better for yourself and your family, Extension can show you how.
How is Extension Funded?
The "Cooperative" part of Extension is federal, state, and local governments cooperating. Together, they fund this system that offers practical information to people where they live and work. The information helps people solve problems and make their communities better places to live. You may remember the old saying, "Give people a fish and they eat for today; teach people to fish and they eat for a lifetime." That is the essence of Virginia Cooperative Extension. We teach people how to do things rather than doing things for them. We help them make a better life not just for today, but also for the future.
Why does it matter to me?
Even if you have never contacted Virginia Cooperative Extension personally, the chances are good that it has impacted your life in some way. We may have helped people in your community learn to manage their finances more effectively. Those people may now be working and paying taxes instead of staying on long-term public assistance. We may have helped youths in your community learn leadership and life skills. Because of those skills, the young people may have stayed out of the juvenile justice system and off "the streets." We may have helped homeowners in your community learn to care for their lawns and gardens in a way that protects the environment. These "best practices" may have reduced the amounts of chemicals and nitrates that leak into your water supply. We may have trained people in your community to handle food safely. Perhaps as a result, the meal you ate at the restaurant, community festival, or church picnic did not make you sick. We may have assisted a small business in getting started in your area. Now maybe a service you needed is available locally and the tax-base in your community has increased. We may have worked with a community coalition to start a new program, bring grant funding to your locality, solve a local problem, or meet a community need.
My concluding question is one I hope you will answer for yourself: Where would your community be without Virginia Cooperative Extension?
For additional information about how changes in the structure of Virginia Cooperative Extension might affect your locality, visit: http://www.ext.vt.edu/restructuring/index.html.