As an integral part of the historical land-grant mission, the agricultural and extension education department’s engagement efforts in Extension and community education provide the necessary footing to increase the capacity and impacts of university scholarship through program and curriculum development, partnership building, and community outreach. These efforts are guided by Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Vision: “Recognizing that knowledge is power, we serve people where they live and work.” Examples of programs related to this focus area include:
Engaging Citizens in Educational Program Planning
Eric Kaufman has been working to improve the use and effectiveness of citizen advisory groups, such as Virginia’s Extension Leadership Councils. This work is facilitated primarily through local agents and members of the State Extension Leadership Council, and that work is guided through an Extension publication, Extension Leadership Councils: Planning for Success. In addition, Kaufman contributes to regional efforts toward Strengthening Extension Advisory Leaders, including regular conferences and helpful curricula.
Cultivating the Next Generation of Farmers
Kim Niewolny is currently working to enhance opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers to establish and sustain viable agricultural operations in Virginia through the development of innovative educational programs and networks. Drawing upon experiential learning and community-based participatory research frameworks, her program efforts focus on identifying the expressed needs of Virginia’s beginning farmers and ranchers, building sustainable partnerships among agricultural community stakeholders, and exploring the development of mentor farmer networks.
This work is a collaborative effort among Extension agents, specialists, and several community partners. Additionally, Niewolny provides programming support for the Community Food Systems Program through Extension’s Community Viability unit.