NDSU Extension strengthens its programming to meet citizen needs
Extension has added or strengthened programs in response to North Dakotans’ concerns.
Like many North Dakotans, Lacey Hinkle of Cavalier was interested in getting more involved in her community, but she didn’t feel prepared to serve on a board or committee.
Determined to make a difference in her community, she signed up for the North Dakota State University Extension Service’s Lead Local program. It’s a one-day boardsmanship training for aspiring, elected and appointed officials.
“I had been thinking of running for City Council for some time, and after taking the Lead Local program, it really gave me that extra confidence to move forward with that decision,” Hinkle says. “The process of running for and winning the City Council seat was a great experience, and I’m using the tools from Lead Local to help me be the best representative I can be.”
More than 280 volunteer groups in North Dakota have benefited from having members participate in Lead Local.
This program is one of several that NDSU Extension developed or strengthened in response to North Dakotans’ concerns about issues related to agriculture, energy, natural resources, the economy, children, families and communities. North Dakotans shared those concerns during 11 community forums Extension held throughout the state in the fall of 2015.
These new and enhanced NDSU Extension programs are framed around three key areas: economic prosperity, community engagement and healthy citizens. Here is a sampling of those programs.
Settings such as grain elevators, seed stores and local cafes have become places for Soil Health Cafe Talks, informal sessions where Extension specialists and agents share information with producers about ways to better manage salinity and improve soil health.
“The Cafe Talks are a nice, small-group setting where producers feel comfortable asking questions that they normally wouldn’t ask at a large meeting,” Sargent County producer Terry Wehlander says. “We can bounce ideas off of each other easily and get our questions answered.”
Other NDSU Extension efforts in agriculture and economics have resulted in:
4,040 producers using Extension’s Farm Bill Decision Aid online spreadsheet to make decisions for their operation
75 percent of survey respondents reporting they’ve taken steps to create a succession plan for their farm or ranch after participating in Extension’s Design Your Succession Plan program
Health-care cost savings ranging from $3.62 to $12.50 for every $1 spent on a program assisting limited-income families with nutrition education
Thousands of producers, gardeners and homeowners receiving help to control weeds, pests and diseases
Extension provides North Dakotans with education on food production, nutrition and healthful living. Here are some impacts:
Each year, more than 9,000 elementary students participate in nutrition and wellness programs such as On the Move to Better Health, Banking on Strong Bones and Go Wild With Fruits and Veggies!
The number of seniors who experienced falls dropped from 52 to 9 percent after they participated in Stepping On, a program that teaches older adults how to avoid falling and increases the likelihood they’ll be able to stay in their homes longer and age in place.
Nearly 200 individuals, including community members, and law enforcement and K-12 education personnel, have participated in Mental Health 101 broadcasts to learn how to recognize signs of people dealing with mental health issues.
More than 12,000 youth have participated in farm-to-table programs such as Ag in the Gym, Ag Careers, Ag Literacy and Junior Master Gardener, which provide the next generation of consumers with a better understanding of the connection between agriculture and the food we eat.
“I learned what sheep’s wool is good for,” says Carrington Elementary School sixth-grader Lexi McClean after participating in Ag in the Gym. “I also learned about types of crops they grow.”
Rural Leadership North Dakota is an 18-month program that has been developing effective leaders to strengthen the state since 2003. Using new leadership skills, program participants have acquired more than $4 million to complete projects, such as new playground equipment, community swimming pool or day-care centers and community marketing efforts, they’ve initiated in their communities.
Leadership training for 4-H and youth are two other components of Extension programming in this area. Studies show youth in 4-H are four times more likely to contribute to their communities than those not in 4-H. North Dakota 4-H programs provided hands-on, real-life experiences to 29,306 youth in 2016.
Civic U is one of Extension’s new programs. It exposes youth in grades six to eight to parliamentary procedure.
“One of the key components of civic involvement is a basic understanding of parliamentary procedure,” says Joel Lemer, an Extension agent for Foster County and one of Civic U’s creators.
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