In crisis, Cooperative Extension is more important than ever

Photo collage originally posted on the NEED website. Photo credits: Photo courtesy of URI Cooperative Extension (left); Photo courtesy of UMaine Extension: photog Remsberg (top right); Photo courtesy of Cornell Cooperative Extension: photog R.J. Anderson (bottom right).

The Cooperative Extension System bridges the gap between each state’s land-grant university (LGU) and its people.

The Cooperative Extension System bridges the gap between each state’s land-grant university (LGU) and its people.

In partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Cooperative Extension translates university research so that trusted knowledge can be put into practice. Cooperative Extension has a presence in every U.S. state and territory. It is able to effectively bring cutting-edge research-based programming, resources, and educational opportunities to individuals, communities, and businesses. Extension also convenes community groups and local leaders to empower home-grown positive change. Critically important is new work to address the effects of COVID-19 on families, farms, businesses, and communities. Cooperative Extension is meeting the crisis in many ways including

At its core, Cooperative Extension works to empower rural and urban communities of all sizes. It helps people to meet the challenges they face, adapt to changing technology, improve nutrition and food safety, prepare for and respond to emergencies, and protect our environment. In the northeast region—CT, DE, DC, MA, ME, MD, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, and WV—that work is unique.

Here, many farms are small, urban areas are large and densely populated, the competition for arable land is intense, and the interface between urban and rural communities is porous.

LGUs in the Northeast region serve nearly 65 million people. That’s nearly 20% of the U.S. population on a mere 5% of our country’s land area. This means that the Northeast is an epicenter for consumer voices, which can drive many food production decisions. It also means that farmers, ranchers, and foresters face dual pressures of limited land and growing populations. These pressures have pushed many producers to innovate. Extension is there to help as farmers work to keep operations highly visible while sustainably meeting consumer demands.

Our region’s Cooperative Extension Systems meet the region’s unique needs by being embedded in communities and listening to families, producers, and businesses. Services include business and risk management support, technical training, climate adaptation tools, business planning help, farm safety guidance, and mental health resources. At the same time, Cooperative Extension meets new challenges. Extension professionals develop urban forestry and garden projects, support community food systems, deliver positive youth development through 4-H, develop programming to address the opioid epidemic, and more.

In the Northeast, Cooperative Extension leadership comes together through the Association of Northeast Extension Directors (NEED).

NEED works to set priorities, collaborate on new projects, and support an effective Cooperative Extension System. It also hosts regional symposia and conferences, connects experts, provides professional development, and fosters partnerships. Cooperative Extension is as important now as it has ever been. We urge you to explore what your Cooperative Extension service is doing where you live through the links below.