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July 24, 2009

July 24 message

Good Morning: I hope all of you have had a good week. A few things to share this week:

County Fairs: Yellow Medicine County fair concludes this weekend and the Redwood and Lincoln Fairs are next week. I know all of you are very busy making sure that all of the fairs are a positive experience for the 4H participants and a great representation of Extension programming. Thanks for all you are doing.

Farmer Lender Mediation: Due to the current economic issues on may farms, there is an increase in the number of creditors that are sending Farmer - Lender mediation notices and farmers that are requesting mediations services. Requests for Farmer Lender Mediation go to the Statewide Mediation Coordinator Mary Nell Preisler. If farmers or lenders have questions about mediation they can contact Mary Nell at 218 935 5785. The publications "About Farmer-Lender Mediation" and "Seeking Solutions in Difficult Times" can be helpful resources for people coming to your office with Mediation questions.

Farm Rent Survey: Later this summer the Extension Farm Business Management team will be conducting a farm rent survey. The survey will be done on-line using Survey Monkey. Renters or land owners who do not have access to internet may be coming to their local County Extension Office for assistance in entering their rental information.

My Schedule: I will be on vacation July 27 - 31 riding bicycle in the 2009 MS TRAM. MS TRAM is a 275 mile ride across Minnesota to benefit Multiple Sclerosis Research. If you need to get in touch with me next week, I will have my cell phone with me and will check e-mail late each day. The following week, I will be working at Farmfest Monday through Thursday, August 3-6. I will not have a blog message next week.

Have a great weekend.


July 17, 2009

July 16 Message

Good Afternoon: I hope all of you have had a good week. I know all of you are busy preparing for county fair along with all of the other summer programming. The County Fair schedule in our region is as follows:

Yellow Medicine: July 23-26
Redwood: July 30-August 2
Lincoln: July 30-August 2
Kandiyohi: August 5-8
Lyon: August 5-8
Chippewa: August 12-14
Renville: August 18-21
Lac qui Parle September 9-13

NEP Database: Many of you were part of the July 8 UM Connect session on the new NEP Data base. The new database will be more efficient and effective in documenting the Nutrition Education Program for continued program accountability and funding. The role of the County Support Staff will continue to enter the participant and course data into the database. The new data base will be web based rather than the current spread sheet. Training for County support staff is planned for October.

Extension County Budgets. In the last week, seven of the eight counties in our region have held County Extension Committee meetings. An important part of the agenda for these meetings was the development of the 2010 budget proposal. As we all know, this is a difficult budget year for counties. Yet, I have been very impressed with the level of support that the Extension Committees have shown for the programming that the budgets support as well as the accountability that we have shown for the public dollars that support our County offices and local programs. Counties continue to make a significant investment of local tax dollars in Extension. The 2010 budgets for Counties in our eight counties total 925,247 dollars.

Have a great weekend.


July 9, 2009

July 9 message

Good Afternoon: I hope you are all haveing a good week. This week's message comes a day early since I plan to take a day off on Friday, July 10.

We have invited current and non-current Master Gardeners in the region (not including Kandiyohi County), to a meeting hosted by the Marshall Regional Office and the State Master Gardener Coordinator David Moen. The purpose of the meeting is to thank the Master Gardeners for their volunteer service, provide an in-service on a current hort topic and introduce the Master Gardener Management program model. The changes were also introduced in a letter that Master Gardeners received earlier this month.

The changes are being made so that the Volunteer Master Gardeners receive consistent management support from Extension. In Counties where this is not possible, other options are made available so the Master Gardeners can continue their volunteer service. This is also an opportunity for Master Gardeners who are no longer active to be thanked and end their Master Gardener service gracefully. The new management system will clarify what expectations are for continuing to serve as an active Master Gardener.

The Master Gardener meeting is for July 22 from 11:30 a.m to 1:30 p.m. at the Americinn in Marshall. It is not expected that County Support Staff attend this meeting unless they serve as a Master Gardener or Master Gardener Coordinator. Please contact me if you have questions.

The following is an excerpt from the letter sent to Master Gardeners about the upcoming changes in Master Gardener Management:

We are introducing changes to the U of M Extension Master Gardener program model that we believe will provide for a more sustainable program on the whole. We are committed to working with county and local Master Gardener groups to grow programs and increase access to University resources.
In many counties, there will be few changes in the day to day operations of the Master Gardener program. For other counties, particularly where there is limited or no county support for this Extension program there will be more significant changes.
These changes reflect a shift from previous program models especially related to roles and expectations. Primarily, where county staff and support has been reduced or eliminated, many management tasks will need to be assumed by volunteers with greater state oversight. In order for the state program to assume more oversight, some specific organizational structures will be expected from local programs so the program is delivered with more consistency across the state.
Here are some of the specifics:
For all county/local Master Gardener programs
To strengthen the relationship between county/local and state Master Gardener programs, it is important that we increase communications and program specific information. All county/local programs will be asked to annually submit the following items. (Templates for each will be available, or a copy of plans, reports and directories you typically generate can be submitted.):
1. A short and simple work plan that describes goals and planned activities
2. A list of local MG volunteers who commit to another year as a Master Gardener
3. A year-end summary of local Master Gardener program highlights and impacts
4. A simple budget and year-end financial report

In addition, each county/local Master Gardener group should have a volunteer leadership team and a set of group operating guidelines (template for guidelines will be available).
The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener program has annual or multi-year program focus priorities (i.e., environmental, food access, youth, diagnostics). We encourage all local programs to incorporate these focus priorities in their educational activities.
For county/local programs with no paid program staff but with designated county Extension support staff or funding.
In these situations, all the above apply in addition to the following:
1. Have a minimum of five active Master Gardeners (we'll help you plan to grow the program) or make decisions about joining together with neighboring or regional groups.
2. Have one MG volunteer who will be the volunteer leader contact with the state office and ensure that basic coordination tasks and expectations of the local Master Gardener program are met.
3. Focus more program efforts on Master Gardener program priorities that assist the state program and regional Extension educators.

For county/local programs with no paid program staff, less than minimum designated county Extension support staff or funding, or a county with no Extension office.
In these situations, all the above apply in addition to the following:
1. The Extension Regional office will be the contact point for phone, mailing address, and minimal operation support for the local program.
2. Volunteers are University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners with no affiliation to a county and do not deliver services on behalf of a county.

These changes have been reviewed and discussed with Extension administrators, regional directors, regional Extension educators in horticulture and local Extension educators and MG coordinators. There is consensus that these plans will move the program in a direction of sustainability, increase support for Master Garden volunteers and strengthen the connection between the University and local Master Gardener programs. We will work with select counties and regional groups in 2009 -2010 to assess and pilot changes. We will continue to support county program changes across the state with a goal of implementing any additional county changes by 2011.

July 2, 2009

July 2 message

Good Afternoon: I hope you have all had a good week and are ready for the Holiday weekend. Summer is a busy time with programming, fair preparations, and budgets. I hope you will find time this summer to enjoy time with family and friends.

In this week's Extension Weekly, Dean Bev Durgan announced some upcoming changes for Extension. Among these changes is the closing of two Regional Offices, Albert Lee and Mora. This change is being made due to current budget challenges and to be sure that Extension is positioned to continue quality programming in the future.

Changes such as these can be upsetting to some, but can also be viewed as opportunities. I was reminded of change this week as I passed the 30 year mark with employment with Extension.

I was hired at a very young age and began work in Lyon County on July 1, 1979. My title at that time was Assistant Agricultural Agent and my responsibilities were primarily 4H. Since that time, titles have changed. I went from Assistant Agricultural Agent to Associate Agent to County Extension Agent to Extension Educator to Cluster Educator to County Extension Director to County Extension Leader to Regional Director. Our Organizational name went from Cooperative Extension to Agricultural Extension to Extension Service to Extension. I lost track of the number of logo's and word marks, but somewhere in my desk drawer are at least four name tags and just as many boxes of business cards with different shapes, colors and names of Extension.

What hasn't changed is the important work that we do. We continue to carry out the Land Grant Mission to provide research based Education to the people of Minnesota. We've been doing that for a century, (70 years longer than I've been employed with Extension). The changes that Extension Administration is making are necessary for Extension to continue to serve the people of Minnesota into the future.

Have a safe and fun Holiday weekend.