Shared Use Kitchen: A WDinExt Podcast

When I set up my interview with John Ivey, North Carolina Cooperative Extension agent in Guilford County, I was interested in the shared use kitchen he helped set up because it seemed innovative that Cooperative Extension would offer a facility where they might have only offered education.

That was just the tip of the iceberg. When John described how the shared use kitchen brought together much of what Extension has to offer: agriculture, entrepreneurship, community development and food safety. Add that to the impetus for the project, a finding that Guilford County was among the lest food secure counties in the nation, and you can see that Guilford County’s shared use kitchen is a much more significant innovation than I had thought.

Soybean Science Challenge – A WDinExt Podcast

Science Flash MobThe University of Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge is a multi-faceted effort to engage high school science students in “real-world” scholarship around soybean production.

Karen Ballard, Professor of Program Evaluation at University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service joined us to talk about the virtual field trips, science fair awards and online courses that make up the Challenge. In addition, Karen shared her insights into how Extension can reach young people and be more innovative.

I hope you enjoy the conversation.

Does Extension’s Research Base Extend to Your Facebook Feed?

This morning I came across the video below in my Facebook news feed. It had been shared by one current and one former Extension educator. You can watch it if you wish, but let me save you some time. It is a highly embellished version of the story of how Francis Scott Key wrote the “Star Spangles Banner,” the first verse of which became the lyrics of America’s national anthem. It is riddled with half-truths, stretched truths and outright fabrications.

I didn’t get very far into the video before I began to wonder about its veracity. When the narrator referred to Fort McHenry as “Fort Henry,” my internal alarms went off, and I started some cursory Internet searches to check the facts of the video. It did not take long to find credible sources that contradicted many of the points of the video.

I think everyone, especially educators, and especially educators representing an organization that defines itself as research-based, has a responsibility to do at least a little work checking to make sure something is true before sharing it on social media (Assessing the Reliability of Online Information).

I understand some people want to keep their personal lives separate from their professional lives. I know it can be a serious burden for county agents to be always on duty, whether they are in the office or at the grocery store, but that’s the job. Even when you are sharing on a personal social media account accessed by only family and close friends, your role as an educator is part of your persona. My mother-in-law spent her whole career in dentistry. I expect that when she shares something with me about tooth and gum care, even in a personal context, that it is based on research or the evidence she has observed in her experience.

Many Extension professionals are generalists and all are representatives of universities, so the expectation of sharing research or evidence-based information extends beyond our particular specialties. We can’t just click the retweet or share buttons if we like a headline or a video fits our personal view of the world. When we do, we are not only reflecting on Cooperative Extension and our universities, but also reflecting on the importance of science, research and the truth.

Nebraska Extension Director Chuck Hibberd: A WDinExt Podcast

Chuck Hibberd, dean and director of Cooperative Extension at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, speaks off-the-cuff about learner engagement, social learning and other subjects key to Extension’s future like no other administrator I’ve met.

Earlier this year, I was assisting with a workshop for Nebraska Extension leaders. The workshop opened with a video message from the director. I thought it would be a standard welcome. Instead Chuck Hibberd spoke, unscripted, about conversational vs. transactional programming, addressing complex issues and the importance of networks.

We talked about some of those things, as well as learner engagement and the future of Extension on the latest Working Differently in Extension podcast.

Focus on What We Share, Not Our Differences

This Labor Day weekend, I read Sebastian Junger’s new book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

The book’s central idea is that we have lost our tribal connection, our opportunity (willingness?) to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others, and that loss has negative psychological impacts. The idea and Junger’s argument in support of it are fascinating. I highly recommend the book.

One point that stuck with me is that our veneration of veterans and active service members might be hindering their reintegration into society. Junger writes about how “shared public meaning” of a war helps reduce the alienation soldiers feel when they return home by providing a context for their sacrifice that is acknowledged by most of the public. He goes on to say that the constant thanking of veterans and service members and the recognition they receive at large sporting events does not develop “shared public meaning,” but may further alienate those who served.

Junger writes, “These token acts only deepen the chasm between the military and civilian population by highlighting the fact that some people serve their country but the vast majority don’t.”

Junger also points out that the American public is disconnected not only from the military but also from other jobs that directly support our culture of consumption, including farming.

Farming is like any other job only you punch in at age 5 and never punch out.

Do messages like this help connect people with farming or further widen the disconnect?

As I read that, I was reminded of Facebook posts that read, “Farming is like any other job, only you punch in at age 5 and never punch out,” or “During harvest farmers give up meals at their table, so we can have meals at ours.” Given Junger’s argument, do posts messages like those above help connect the public to agriculture or further widen the gap?

I think it’s the latter. If we want to reconnect consumers and producers, service members and those they protected, or those who have become alienated in our communities, we need to focus on what we share, not on our differences.

Health Inequities and Cooperative Extension: A WDinExt Podcast

When I read the article, “Rural Health Inequities and the Role of Cooperative Extension” in the Journal of Extension, I knew I wanted to have the authors (Lauri Andress and Cindy Fitch) on the Working Differently in Extension podcast.

So much of their article, spoke to things I believe about complex issues, using networks to address those issues, and Extension’s potential role in those networks. The article makes it clear that the decisions people make about their health happen in context, and knowledge transfer alone is not enough to address health issues in context. According to the authors, “Successful interventions (in addressing diabetes) have focused on a range of determinants, including capacity building, community participation, community development, systems change, health education, food preparation, and physical activity classes.”

Andress and Fitch believe Cooperative Extension is uniquely positioned to address rural health inequities on a number of fronts. I agree, but I also think Extension alone cannot solve this problem. We need to work with a wide range of organizations that can address this complex issue in ways Extension can’t or could never imagine.

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

The Rural Digital Divide: A WDinExt Podcast

Dr. Roberto Gallardo is working to close the rural digital divide. He’s the leader of Mississippi State University Extension Intelligent Community Institute and the author of Responsive Countryside: The Digital Age and Rural Communities.

In the latest Working Differently in Extension podcast we talked about Roberto’s TEDxJackson Talk, the rural digital divide and Cooperative Extension’s role in closing it.

Youth-led Web Conferencing: A WDinExt Podcast

After a long hiatus, the Working Differently in Extension podcast returns with a conversation with Kelsey Romney, Utah State University 4-H.

Kelsey has organized 4-H leadership summits that are led by youth leaders using the web-conferencing tool Zoom. Kelsey talked about all the ways they tried to make the summits engaging and interactive, including playing games using Kahoot.

Kelsey talked about how web-conferencing increased access to the summits, especially for those kids who may not have been able to afford traveling to a face-to-face meeting. Beyond that, what really resonated with me was the fact that the summits were youth-led. I believe Cooperative Extension needs to find more places where we can step off the stage and provide the support and expertise necessary to let the people we serve talk to each other.

I also talked with Kelsey about some great training videos she created.

Polarization of Agriculture: A WDinExt Podcast

Like many parts of our society, attitudes about agriculture have become more polarized, which presents a challenge for Extension educators.

Michael Martin, Colorado State University, wrote a great commentary in the Journal of Extension about this polarization and how educators work within it. I think this is a critical issue for Extension, so I was excited to talk to Michael about his thoughts.

I hope you enjoy the conversation. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Extension and Refugees: A WDinExt Podcast

When I read about Anindita Das, refugee coordinator for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, I was interested in the idea of an Extension professional focused on the refugee community. I have not heard of another Extension organization with a full-time position dedicated to serving the refugee community.

While we did discuss how and  why Extension should be reaching out to the refugee community, I was surprised by how much of our conversation connected to Extension’s potential to work within collective action networks.

Anindita’s works with a coalition of organizations many of which have served the refugee community for years. Anindita is working to connect these organizations, help them coordinate and help them show the impact of their collective work. Her work reminded me of my conversation with Jame Bain, Noelle Harden and Stephanie Heim, in which we talked about the ways Extension could contribute to existing networks.

When Anindita talked about how the refugee organizations could help connect Extension with the refugee community, I though of my recent conversation with Jessica Beckendorf and Sandy Liang. Jessica and Sandy got connected with the veterans by working with their county veterans service officer.

Anindita had only been on the job for 6 weeks when we spoke. I really appreciate her willingness to talk about her work, when she was still figuring it out.

I hope you enjoy the conversation.