Our opinon Extension model adapts to new era

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Posted: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 11:45 pm | Updated: 11:34 am, Thu Jul 18, 2013.

University of Missouri Extension is founded on the principle of expanding teaching and research into every corner of the state for practical application.

Through statewide changes taking place and recently revealed, Extension continues to model innovation and adaption.

Extension has programming and some type of office in every county. This design provides residents with education right where they live. But it also requires a lot of infrastructure to maintain.

Population patterns are different than in Extension’s early days. Broadband internet now stretches across the state, making it possible to video chat with a researcher who is in Columbia, Mo., while sitting at home. Or on the tractor.

Recent organizational changes at Extension have resulted in the blurring of regional boundary lines. That’s exactly the type of regionalization advocated by Richard Longworth, noted author on Midwest issues and the keynote speaker at the Community Foundation of Northwest Missouri’s event earlier this year in St. Joseph.

The plan means more collaboration, more sharing of ideas and greater use of technology to access specialists. That’s mostly positive for our region.

These changes also could signal the future closing of some Extension outposts in rural areas. In the long run, that move would also be positive because it means improved efficiency.

The goal of Extension is not to sustain a business model that made sense and was created decades ago, but to give farmers, gardeners, students and business owners the information they need today.

On July 2, Gov. Jay Nixon signed a law passed by the General Assembly that allows Extension county councils to join with other counties to form Extension districts. It’s not a requirement, only an option. Councils in Northwest Missouri need to examine this option and look at ways to strengthen our region through cooperation.

After all, that’s what Extension is all about.

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