At this time of year, UF IFAS Extension agents across the state are compiling all of their phone calls, emails, field visits, number of programs held and participants attended to complete their annual report of accomplishment. As an extension agent, I can vouch that our annual reports are a bit of a record keeping challenge and a little stressful since it is the sole document that determines our career. However, after completing the records review and tying it all together, seeing all we do locally and statewide is pretty amazing. If you’ve been to an extension office for a class, called for a recommendation, and/or asked a question at a community event, then you know how handy it is to get some good, trusted advice. Looking over the numbers and reviewing responses from the participants highlights the reach and impact of extension in the community.
The goal of the Extension Service, going back to the early 1900’s, is to provide scientific knowledge and expertise to the public through educational programs. Our educational programs are designed to be interesting to attend, but also to pass along information to help meet challenges and issues faced by our state and/or region. You may come to a class on growing roses and leave with new information about proper pest control. You may attend a food canning class and leave with new food safety knowledge. You found a camp for your child during the summer and they came back knowing how to compost and build robots. Our priorities, set by Dean Nick Place, address economic, environmental, health, and social concerns of Floridians. Your kid had fun and learned about the need to recycle and turn food waste into plant food, helping to meet waste reduction goals and giving them the knowledge and skills to grow their own food.
Extension agents need to show in their reports that, not only are people coming, but they’re learning and doing. That’s why attendees are often asked to fill out surveys after workshops and sometimes answer follow up emails. We also get a lot of feedback from folks that were happy with our services. So, please let us know if you gained knowledge that changed something in your life for the better. It’s also not a bad idea to call or write your elected officials and tell them thanks for supporting extension, a cooperative effort between the federal, state, and county governments.
The numbers speak for themselves:
- In 2016, nearly 60 million connections were made statewide. Local extension offices connect with hundreds of thousands of citizens a year!
- Based on statewide survey data, 77% of those that called for advice said it solved their problem.
- Of those surveyed, 71% said they either saved money, developed their skills, conserved water or energy, or improved their health or well-being.
- Over 90% consider the information, up-to-date, accurate, and easy to understand.
Now that reports are done for this year, it’s time to start planning for 2018’s impacts. Agents are planning activities that will be of interest to and meet the needs of their communities. Keep a lookout for upcoming events by visiting your local county extension office’s webpage and/or Facebook page. You can also give them a call or, even better, go by and meet your local agents and staff.