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Extension at the Capitol

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On Feb. 3-4, more than 60 Extension stakeholders and staff participated in the University's annual Legislative Action Day. Members of Extension's statewide advisory committees, representatives from county Extension committees, 4-H youth ambassadors and Extension staff learned more about the University's biennial request and then met with their legislators to express their support for Extension and the University.

On Feb. 17, Extension joined the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), and the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), in presenting to the House Ag Finance Committee. The hearing provided an opportunity to speak with legislators on how Extension, CFANS and CVM serve Minnesota and the agriculture community.

4-H Celebration of Agriculture

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The Minnesota 4-H Foundation hosted the second annual 4-H Celebration of Agriculture on Feb. 21 at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center. It was a great celebration of our statewide friends and supporters, and a chance to demonstrate the impact of Minnesota 4-H. Teams from the 4-H Science of Agriculture initiative shared their ongoing research projects with attendees, showing how 4-H provides hands-on learning opportunities for Minnesota's next generation of agricultural leaders. Watch for a story about 4-H Science of Agriculture in the Spring-Summer issue of Source magazine! You can also visit Extension's Facebook post to see photos taken at the event. Sponsors included Jennie-O, Compart Family Farms, Minnesota Pork Board, Minnesota Farmers Union, and AgStar.

On Feb. 1, Kent Olson began his new leadership role as interim associate dean for the Extension Center for Community Vitality. Kent has been an Extension economist since 1985, working in applied research, on-campus teaching and Extension education. He served as an Extension program leader from 2004 to 2011.

After receiving his bachelor's, master's and doctorate from Iowa State University, Kent was an Extension economist at University of California, Davis before coming to Minnesota. His research has emphasized farm level management issues such as production efficiency, the interaction between farming and the environment, decision-making, and the impact of government policies. He published two books on farm management and numerous publications. He has worked in Sweden, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Ethiopia, India, Poland and Italy.

Updated Extension fact sheet available

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An updated Extension fact sheet is now available on the intranet and public website. The 2015 edition features updated information about Extension's reach, impact and funding. It is an excellent resource for acquainting new audiences with Extension's work and mission.

Development news

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The first project funded by the new Mary J. Page Community-University Partnership Endowment Fund is underway. Through this fund, Amanda Sames, a Ph.D. student at the U's College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Sciences, is undertaking a community research project on developing markets for Minnesota-grown hazelnuts. Sames is supporting the Fairmont-based Minnesota Hazelnut Foundation during the University's spring semester.

The Page Fund, named in honor of former University of Minnesota Regent and Renville County Commissioner Mary Page (1934-2013), supports University of Minnesota graduate and advanced undergraduate students working on community identified and requested research projects. Funding for students is administered through the University's Center for Urban and Regional Affairs. Grants are advised by Extension's Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP), which Mary Page helped found. Extension's RSDP facilitates community-university projects in the areas of sustainable agriculture and local food, natural resources, tourism and resilient communities, and clean energy.

Epsilon Sigma Phi

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Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) is our Extension professional organization focused on connecting Extension staff and retirees to build networks, continuity and support for Extension. With over 150 retirees and 40 annual members in Minnesota, please consider joining ESP. In addition to reconnecting with Extension and colleagues, there are a number of other benefits, including access to ESP scholarship and grants and opportunities to mentor new Extension staff. Learn more of the member benefits at ESP.

Our ESP goals for 2014-2015 are to increase the number of members, enhance the engagement of membership, increase scholarship opportunities for members, as well as recognize the high quality work of our membership through state and national awards. You can play a major role in helping achieve all of these goals. Become a life member for the one-time fee of $250. The yearly membership is $70 and an associate membership (Extension staff employed less than 3 years) is $30. Please contact me with any questions you might have when joining ESP, (507) 389-6721 or

Kelly Kunkel
ESP-Pi Chapter President

Awards and Accomplishment (March 2015)

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Bill Hutchison, Extension specialist and head of the Department of Entomology, has assumed the role of director for the University of Minnesota Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. This IPM program is a long-standing USDA-NIFA program, which a few years ago transitioned from an allocated line item in Extension's budget to a competitive grant program. In addition to managing the grant, Bill will supervise personnel hired from this grant.

Gov. Mark Dayton declared January Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Education and Outreach Month. Extension's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) makes the healthy choice the easy choice for Minnesotans with limited financial resources.

Andy Robinson, Extension potato agronomist, was recognized as the National Potato Council's Spudman Emerging Leader of 2015 on Jan. 9. The award recognizes exceptional leadership and contributions to the potato-growing community. Robinson has a shared position with Extension at the University of Minnesota and North Dakota State University.

Eli Sagor, program manager and Extension specialist, sustainable forests education, was selected as a recipient of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) Outstanding Doctoral Research Award. This award is given in recognition of outstanding scientific achievements in doctoral research. His dissertation is "Personal networks and private forestry: Exploring Extension's role in landowner education."

Smith-Lever centennial celebration continues

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In 1914 the Smith-Lever Act created the national system for Extension. Special events to mark this centennial anniversary have included:

  • A video about Extension in Minnesota was created to celebrate the 100-year anniversary.  Check it out: "Extending knowledge, changing lives."
  • Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), was in Minnesota to speak at an international conference on food and science.  On April 30, Extension faculty and staff in northeast Minnesota hosted him at the Cloquet Forestry Center where he  learned  more about University of Minnesota Extension.
  • On May 8, the date of the actual signing of the Smith Lever Act, a national centennial convocation was held in Washington, D.C.  Bev Durgan, Dean;  Aimee Viniard-Weideman, assistant dean of communications and public relations; and David Werner, chief financial officer, participated in the national celebration.
  • Throughout 2014, National Cooperative Extension is celebrating the centennial with a project called "Extension Reconsidered." The project engages 13 land-grant universities, including University of Minnesota, to reflect on and envision Cooperative Extension's role and relevance in higher education across the U.S. In Minnesota, we will hold conversations in a variety of settings.  The primary Minnesota Extension Reconsidered event will be part of the July 30-31 Rural Design Conference at UM Crookston.
More information about the Smith-Lever anniversary is available on the Cooperative Extension website.

U-Lead Advisory Academy

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The U-Lead Advisory Academy (ULAA) is a leadership program for friends of Extension, like you, who are ready to strengthen their ability to provide leadership in their communities. The program will also help you discover Extension's innovative programs through site visits, speakers and activities. This year, ULAA will explore the theme of Leadership for Healthy, Livable Communities. You will gather insights, experiences and resources on this important topic as you learn, connect with fellow participants, and visit communities.

The six month cohort experience will allow you the opportunity to learn, to connect with others around topics of community leadership, to visit the City of New Orleans and learn about their community revitalization efforts after Katrina, and to apply what you learn with support from a network of others who can be trusted colleagues. After your ULAA experience, the Extension Leadership and Civic Engagement team will offer continuing education experiences, and will even offer a chance for an international tour that will support Minnesota's effort to support the global economy.

Scholarship applications are being taken until May 30th, and registration will open on June 2nd. Visit the ULead Advisory Academy website for additional program and registration information.

Center for Small Towns Symposium

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The Extension Center for Community Vitality is a collaborating partner for the 2014 Center for Small Towns Symposium, to be held June 4-5 at the University of Minnesota Morris. This event has a long tradition of helping rural Minnesota consider its opportunities and issues. The focus this year is "Understanding rural migration: Myths, trends and opportunities." Speakers will present research that unpacks migration trends, flows, and economic impacts, and will also explore practical strategies to recruitment and retention of residents in rural Minnesota.

Ben Winchester, Extension research fellow, is the symposium's keynote speaker, presenting his research about rural Minnesota migration. Ben's research goes beyond the overall trends, examining specific data that, for example, monitored the trend of 30-49 year olds moving into rural places. Extension faculty and staff, partners, stakeholders and others who are concerned about the future of rural Minnesota are invited to attend. For more information and to register, visit the event website.

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