Mary Campbell, Extension Director and Urban Sustainability Agent, Pinellas County Extension
As we enter 2011, the mission of the University of Florida Pinellas County Extension is even more critical to local residents. All universities engage in research and teaching, but the nation's more than 100 land-grant colleges and universities, have a third critical mission—extension. "Extension" means "reaching out," and—along with teaching and research—land-grant institutions "extend" their resources, solving public needs with university resources through non-formal, non-credit programs.
Congress created the extension system nearly a century ago (1914) to address agricultural issues. At that time, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas, and 30 percent of the workforce was engaged in farming. Through Extension Agents working closely with farmers to provide better methods, the American agricultural revolution dramatically increased farm productivity. Extension changed the face of American farming and supported not only farm operations but family life through home economics and 4-H youth programs. The entire family was served by the expertise of Agents on subjects as diverse as crop rotation, food safety, youth development and money management.
Today, Pinellas County Extension still keeps residents informed on critical topics of interest. Local issues are more centered on resource conservation, environmentally friendly practices, sustainable development and challenges such as youth obesity. Extension provides continuing education that assists professionals to stay up to date with current information. Residents can find non-biased, scientific resources on topics like money management, energy conservation, composting and nutrition.
In the age of technology, Extension provides many on line resources and programs to make it easier to access information 24/7. The national extension system supports the eXtension Web site. One of the goals of eXtension is to develop a coordinated, Internet-based information system where customers will have round-the-clock access to trustworthy, balanced views of specialized information and education on a wide range of topics. The University of Florida database, EDIS –Electronic Data Information Source is also available. Each year, visitors to the EDIS Web site access one of over 7,000 publication titles more than 24 million times.
For local access, Pinellas County Extension provides a Frequently Asked Questions database at AskExtension.org that is searchable and allows for residents to post new questions which are answered by the experts at Extension. The methods may have changed, but the information is still the most up to date science available from the University of Florida. Explore the on-line sites or register on line for a class this year to update your knowledge on a variety of topics. Extension is available to help our community learn sustainable practices and improve the quality of lives. Share our information with a friend who may not know about Extension. Join us on Facebook and Twitter in 2011!