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August 28, 2009

August 28 message

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

Extension County Websites: If you have not returned your input on County Websites that I discussed in last week's blog, please do so as soon as possible. Send your response to the questions posed last week to Mary Jo at the Marshall Regional Office.

Learning Circle Lessons: Several of you have inquired about the lessons available for Learning Circle groups this year. The following message comes from Kay Stanek who leads the Learning Circle team:

On behalf of the Learning Circles team, I would to share the Learning Circles topics that may possibly be ready to use during the 2009- 2010 year. This year we have had some commitments from teams but so far no recording has happened. There may be one or two teams recording in September, but we will need to wait to see how things move along.
Below is a list of topics that are in the hopper:
Preserving Food Safely - Carol Ann Burtness and Deb Botzek-Linn
Bird Watching Basics - How to Do It, Where to Find Them - John Loegering
Backyard Naturalist - John Loegering
Living Resourcefully in Challenging Times - Phyllis Onstad and Kay Lovett
Exploring Tribal Government, Sovereignty and Culture - Susan Beaulieu, Jennifer Garbow and Dawn Newman
Hot Dish Casseroles - Connie Burns
Transferring Forest Property - Jo Musich
Some additional topics may also be coming. We will let you know as soon as we hear more.
In addition, the following lessons from past years are available:
OPERATION MILITARY KIDS: Supporting Military Families in MN
RECYCLING USED WATER: Understanding Septic Systems
CREDIT SCORE: One Part of a Credit Report
LOCAL FOODS: What Has Changed in 150 Years
Questions? Contact Pat Persoon at the Marshall Regional Office.

Farmland Rental Survey: As discussed in last week's message the Farm Business Management team will start the Farm Land rental survey next week. The Minnesota Land Rental Survey input form is available for use for individuals that do not have access to the internet, and may come to your office for assistance. You can have the individuals complete the forms, and then enter the information in Survey Monkey.

University Office Changes: In the next few months and longer we will likely see some changes in several University offices. Here are details of office changes that either have been finalized, or are under discussion:
Regional Office - Albert Lee will close September 30. Staff has been reassigned to Mankato and Rochester Regional Offices and other.

Regional Office - Mora will close December 31. Staff will relocate to Saint Cloud, Andover etc.

Worthington Regional Office - Discussions underway for relocation to new regional education facility in bioscience park in Worthington. Discussion partners are Minnwest Community and Technical College, Mankato State, AURI Workforce Center etc.

UROC - Hennepin County: Planning underway for Center in North Minneapolis. Extension presence to include NEP, Master Gardeners etc.

University presence in MinnWest campus in Willmar. Plans are being discussed for build out of building for University of Minnesota presence. Building space is proposed to be provided by the project partners. This is a Public Private Partnership with partners including Economic Development in Willmar and Kandiyohi County, the technology subsidiary of Willmar Poultry and State Bonding allocation through DEED. Staffing plans have not been determined.

As always, let me know if there are any questions. Have a great weekend.


August 21, 2009

August 21 message

Good Morning: This week's blog message is a bit longer than usual. I encourage you to read the entire blog, and reply to the items requested. I would also encourage you to have discussion on any of the items using the comment feature on this blog. As always, if you have any questions, give me a call.

Farm rent Survey: As I discussed a few weeks ago, the Extension Farm Business management Educators will be conducting a farm land Rental Survey for a three week period in September. The survey will be conducted through Survey Monkey, with a simple six step entry per parcel procedure. Renters or landlords can enter up to 10 parcels and the URL for the entry will work only one time, (to prevent multiple entries that would invalidate the data).
Renters and Land owners who do not have access to the internet will be invited to go to their County or Regional Extension office to have their data entered, and I would ask for your assistance if you get these requests. County and Regional Offices will receive a separate URL that will allow multiple entries. The information that renters or land owners will need to provide include whether they are an operator, landlord or both; what county and township the land parcel is located; tillable acres rented; 2009 rent per tillable acre; estimated 2010 cash rent per acre.
You will receive the URL prior to August 31. If you have questions about the rental survey contact Rob Holcomb at the Marshall Regional Office.

Extension County Websites: The Extension Communications team is working to keep the County website format useable and providing the information needed by our audiences. To assist with this, the Communications team is requesting your input on the following questions:

1. What locally-specific Extension information do regional or county staff need to make available on the Internet?
a. Local News
b. Event promotions
c. Community Vitality
d. Natural Resources
e. Agriculture
f. Family Development
g. Gardening (Master Gardeners now have local blogs in some counties)
h. 4-H
i. Other (please describe)
2. What are the reasons why regional and county staff use the existing Extension county sites?
a. For use by county/regional staff\
b. To forward the public to local information
c. County staff information
d. Event information
e. Other (please describe)
3. Are counties posting information on county government sites?
a. If so, what?
b. Why? (because the county wants an Extension page, because the Extension county site doesn't serve their needs, etc.)
c. Is info on county government sites being kept up to date? By whom? How often?
4. Who are county or regional staff who post on either the Extension or county government sites?
Please provide your input on each of these questions to Mary Jo in the Marshall Regional Office, foxxx055@umn.edu by Friday, August 21.

County Budget Challenges: As we all know Counties are faced with serious budget challenges this year. These challenges are impacted by several factors including the desire to limit any tax levy increase, the State Unallottment received by counties in June and the recent recalculation of County Program Aid received by counties. County Program Aid is changing due to the formula influence of property valuation changes in different classes of property. Specifically residential and commercial property in the state is decreasing in value and agricultural property is increasing. This impacts the County Program aid formula by increasing shifting aid from agricultural property dependent counties to counties more dependent on commercial and residential property. The following chart shows how the unallotmement and change in county program aid affects counties in our region. The chart is in order of lowest to highest per capita loss. Lincoln County is the highest per capita loss not only in our region, but also in the state.


My point in sharing this with you is to help all of us understand the difficult budget decisions faced by our County Administration and Boards. If you have any questions on the following information, Please let me know.

Parents Forever: If you have not done so already, check out the following article from the West Central Tribune in Willmar: http://www.wctrib.com/event/article/id/55928/
Kim Johnson at the Kandiyohi County coordinates the Parents Forever program in addition to her support staff role at the Extension Office. The article highlights the value of the program as well as the nice work Kim does with coordinating this program.

Master Gardeners: Master Gardeners in the Region have been invited to a September 10 meeting at the Marshall Regional Office. This will be a working meeting to determine how to move forward in supporting, strengthening and growing the Master Gardener program in this region of the state. In keeping within the parameters of state program guidelines outlined in July, each current county group had the task to discuss their preferences for moving forward - build the current county program, form a multi-county/regional program structure, or no longer host a local Master Gardener program. There was consensus that a regional approach would be most likely to succeed in strengthening support and connections between and among Master Gardeners and the Extension Master Gardener Program. We hope that you will participate in this meeting and help shape how the future program is structured and functions. Several Counties in the region are not involved in this Regional Master Gardener Organizational re-design. For example, Chippewa Master Gardeners have decided to either stay as a County group or join counties in the Morris region. Renville County has enough numbers and volunteer organization to continue to support them as a County group. Kandiyohi is supported by an Extension Educator in the County. The remaining counties either do not have enough Master Gardeners or do not have County support to function independently. Please contact me or State Master Gardener Coordinator David Moen if you have questions.

Have a great weekend.

August 14, 2009

August 14 message

Good Afternoon: I hope you have all had a good week. A few items to share with you this week.

County Fairs: Thanks to all for you extra efforts in making the County Fairs a positive experience for the program participants and a great program show case for Extension. Your extra efforts are appreciated. Six fairs in our region are now "in the books'. Renville and Lac qui Parle are upcoming.

Farmfest / Farm Family Recognition. This year's Farmfest is also history. Attendance at this year's Farm fest was up each of the three days by 7 % for a total attendance of 43,978 people. The University tent was also well attended and focused on renewable energy, emerald ash borer, current agronomic climactic and farm economic concerns and general University promotion. Seventy two Counties participated in the Farm Family Recognition event and 60 families attended the recognition program. Farm family recognition information, including photos and family descriptions are available at the Farm Family website: http://mnfarmfamilies.cfans.umn.edu/Photos.html

Upcoming NEP Database training. Just a reminder that the NEP Database training is scheduled for October of County based Support Staff and NEA's. Invitations to the training were sent previously. Travel expense for this training will be covered by the State program.

MS TRAM update: I'm happy to report that I survived the MS TRAM, (290 mile bike ride across the state). More Importantly, over $850,000 was raised that week to support Multiple Sclerosis research and support programs for people living with MS.

Have a great weekend, (I will be off on Monday, August 17, but will return on Tuesday).