October 2000 // Volume 38 // Number 5

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Editor's Page

Editor's Page


Extension: On the Brink of Extinction or Distinction?
King, David A.; Boehlje, Michael D.
Extension is rapidly being drawn into a competitive knowledge marketplace. This article looks at why and proposes a way to meet the resulting new audience expectations. Technology and escalating audience demands for anytime/anyplace access conspire to place Extension--a large, traditional organization--at a disadvantage. The authors propose a new and distinct virtual Extension competitor designed to meet dot.com's head on: e-CES. As Tom Peters says, "Become distinct, or become extinct."

Value-Free Extension Education?
Blaine, Thomas W.; Patton, David B.
We address the current Extension concern with the issue of education versus advocacy, using a framework derived from the philosophy of science. Questioning the appropriateness of Extension's persistent use of terms like "research based," "science," and "unbiased" to defend programming in controversial areas, we argue that because all knowledge inherently contains values, or bias, this is an inappropriate position to adopt. It would be more intellectually defensible for Extension educators to recognize the inevitable impact of their values and beliefs on their programming efforts. Instead of appealing to "scientific objectivity," educators should be judging the appropriateness of their work in relation to Extension's mission and the values of the communities in which they operate.

Feature Articles

Employers' Perceptions of Welfare Reform: Implications for Cooperative Extension Personnel
Wilson, Bernice, B.; Stewart, Daisy L.
Federal legislation passed in 1996 mandated that each state establish welfare-to-work programs and required that recipients work or lose benefits after 2 years and a life-time limit of 5 years. This article discusses the perceptions of selected employers who were interviewed regarding factors contributing to their participation in welfare reform and affecting welfare recipients' entry into the workforce. Conclusions from the interview data related to willingness of employers to hire welfare recipients and to the importance of providing support for new employees, fostering cooperation among employers and agencies to provide education and training, examining welfare policies, and providing affordable child care. Implications for Cooperative Extension professionals are described.

Farm Growth Next to a Large City: Opportunities for Extension Education
James, Randall E.; James, Barbara H.; Blaine, Thomas W.
Land use issues and farmland preservation have continued to be prominent topics, particularly in communities bordering cities. Extension educators in a county adjacent to Cleveland, Ohio undertook a study to determine how urban pressures might be impacting the agricultural community. The findings revealed the number of farms in the portion of the county located closest to the urban center is increasing, even though land values and housing starts are increasing there as well. The number of farms in the most rural areas is decreasing, in spite of lower land values and fewer housing starts. The farms closest to Cleveland tend to market products and services directly to the consumer, as opposed to the wholesale agricultural operations located in the more remote sections of the county. These findings demonstrate that agriculture, even in high-growth areas, can adapt to compete with other uses for land. Assisting community members in making these adaptations is likely to challenge Extension educators in the future.

Research in Brief

Delivering Short Seminars and Workshops to Farmers and Ranchers with Low Bandwidth On-line Technologies
Beaudin, Bart
One hundred fifty-three designers of on-line instruction completed a 35-item on-line questionnaire and recommended the following top three low bandwidth technologies to use when delivering short seminars and workshops: 1) Web page (text and < 50K graphics) with asynchronous discussion. 2) Web page only, and 3) Web-based training (user submit and feedback) with asynchronous discussion. There were no significant differences between how females and males rated the various technologies or when the data was controlled for age of the respondents. Experience designing on-line courses produced a significant finding at the .05 level for the rating of "Web Page with Asynchronous Discussion" (p = .032 and df = 145).

The Use of Focus Group Interviews to Evaluate Agriculture Educational Materials for Students, Teachers, and Consumers
Nordstrom, Patricia A.; Wilson, Lowell L.; Kelsey, Timothy W.; Maretzki, Audrey N.; Pitts, Charles W.
In Pennsylvania, surveys were used to identify and rank public concerns regarding animal agriculture. Educational materials were developed to address the identified concerns, primarily food safety and environmental issues. To evaluate the materials developed, focus group discussions were conducted. The objectives were to determine if these materials adequately address the concerns, to identify target audiences, and to assess possible methods of dissemination. Participants included members of the public, teachers, and livestock producers. The discussions resulted in data that more than adequately met the stated objectives. They also provided valuable insight into the perceptions and attitudes of both livestock producers and non-farming participants.

Ideas at Work

Helping Children Succeed After Divorce: Building a Community-Based Program in a Rural County
Johnson, Diane E.
The devastating effect of divorce on children has led to the development of parenting programs across the country. Extension in rural Darke County, Ohio, played a key role initiating and conducting such a program by working in collaboration with the courts and mental health agencies. Through exit evaluations, more than 1,400 participants in 5 1/2 years indicated that they learned how to focus on their children through the grieving process and learned the importance of a low-conflict relationship with their child's other parent.

User Analysis and Future Directions of the Web-Based Aquaculture Network Information Center
Swann, LaDon D.; Einstein, Mark
Trends revealing increasing Internet access in the U.S. provide an excellent opportunity for educators to deliver educational programs over the Internet. The Aquaculture Network Information Center (AquaNIC) Web site was established in 1994 to serve as the gateway to the world's electronic resources for aquaculture. From September 1999 through August 2000, 705 unique visitors per day viewed approximately 5,000 pages per day. The top five domain types were commercial (56%), network (30%), education (10%), government (1.6%), and organizations (1.2%). The five most commonly accessed directories were jobs (39%), publications (28%), multimedia (22%), beginners (6%), and Internet sites (4%). We propose increased collaboration between Extension and Sea Grant aquaculture educators to deliver on-line educational programs responsive to the needs of the global aquaculture community.

Tools of the Trade

Justin S. Morrill--Father of the Land-Grant Colleges: A Book Review
Astroth, Kirk A.
Coy F. Cross's biography, Justin Smith Morrill: Father of the Land-Grant Colleges, is a short but informative look at the life and many accomplishments of its subject. Although the author's style is sometimes disconnected, the book would make a valuable addition to any library on Extension. It is particularly valuable for its recounting of Morrill's persistent efforts to establish the Land-Grant System in the face of vehement opposition, but the book also covers other facets of his long and distinguished career.

The Evolution in Using High Tech Teaching Tools in Outreach Programs: From Stone Age to High Tech
Marrotte, Edmond L.
This article discusses some ways a teacher has successfully used video cameras, projection equipment, and computers as teaching aids in Master Gardener classes and other outreach programs. It covers the trials and evolution of teaching techniques to improve learning levels, describing the use of the video cameras (regular and microscope mounted) and viewing equipment tried and explaining reasons for discarding or keeping them. The use of laptop computers and Microsoft's PowerPoint program and the integration of live video images into the presentation are also covered.

Brambles - Production, Management, and Marketing: An Ohio State University Extension Bulletin
Gao, Gary
Ohio State University Extension Bulletin 782-99, Brambles - Production, Management, and Marketing, is a comprehensive guide on raspberries and blackberries. This article describes those features of the bulletin that make it particularly useful as a reference and tool for county horticultural Extension Agents, as well as for commercial berry growers and serious backyard gardeners.

Maine Support Staffers Unite!
Buckley, Donna
In 1997, support staff at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension felt a need to formally unite. They had an overwhelming presence in their organization but no voice. Eight members volunteered to form the Extension Support Staff Committee (EssC) with the hope of bringing a unified voice to the organization. This article describes their successful and ongoing efforts to achieve their goal.