SDSU Extension Announces Signature Programs

Beginning Farmer/Rancher Program to be a major emphasis

Having just emerged from a budget-driven structural reorganization resulting in Regional Extension Centers staffed by Field Specialists, SDSU Extension today announced a series of new Signature Programs.

Among the programs is an effort to help people who are new to farming and ranching. The program, called the SDSU Extension Beginning Farmer/Rancher Program, is intended to help people who are just starting to farm as well as those who may have inherited land and want to learn how it should be managed, according to Dr. Barry Dunn, the SDSU Dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences and Director of SDSU Extension.

The emphasis on new Extension programs reaches beyond agriculture.

"Each program area within SDSU Extension has identified Signature Programs that they will prioritize in 2012 to address the current needs of the people and communities they serve throughout South Dakota," said Dunn.

Dunn adds that identifying the critical needs of the South Dakotans and the role SDSU Extension plays in meeting those needs was part of the recent Extension reorganization.

"These Signature Programs allow the specialists within Extension's capstone areas to concentrate their time, energy and resources on significant efforts that have the greatest impact on the producers and communities we serve," Dunn said. "They allow for our professionals to do their best work and reach out to communities of learners who can use the knowledge and research provided to them through the Signature Programs to become more competitive in today's economy and marketplace."

Along with these Signature Programs, Dunn explains that South Dakotans can continue to rely on SDSU Extension to provide the traditional education, information, resources and services they have come to depend upon through new, easy to access avenues like iGrow and AnswerLine.

"We've updated the way we provide some of our resources to make them accessible to all South Dakotans conveniently through internet or telephone," Dunn said.

Signature Programs in Agriculture

Dunn said Signature Programs in Agriculture and Natural Resources will target Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, Small Acreages, Backgrounding Cattle, and Pesticide Applicator Certification.

As the average age of South Dakota's farmer and rancher population continues to increase, the SDSU Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources Program hopes to encourage the next generation of South Dakotans to embrace career opportunities found within production agriculture through the Beginning Farmer/Rancher Program.

Aimed at providing mentorship, networking, resources and education to address the many challenges young farmers and ranchers face when they are just starting out, the Beginning Farmer/Rancher Program connects participants with successful producers as well as their peers.

"We're looking at the bigger picture and providing assistance to South Dakota's next generation of agriculture producers," said Rosie Nold, the Agriculture & Natural Resources program director.

On today's farm and ranch, maximizing current inputs, or expanding current operations can make a positive difference on producers' bottom line.

With this in mind, Nold and Extension Specialists within Agriculture & Natural Resources Program will make hands-on calibration training part of the pesticide applicator certification training and will focus more resources and education in the area of backgrounding livestock.

"A large percentage of South Dakota's cattle are exported as young calves. Backgrounding is another option cattle producers can consider to add value to their livestock operation and the state's livestock industry," Nold said.

The Agriculture & Natural Resources program has also developed educational programming for the increasing number of South Dakotans living on small acreages.

"Census data shows an increase in small farms within the state. The owners of these small acreages have expressed a need for best management practices within the areas of livestock and natural resources," Nold said.

Signature Programs for 4-H and Youth

"We've refocused more staff resources on 4-H and youth education," said Dunn.

More than 30 new 4-H Youth Program Advisor positions were created to focus on 4-H as a result of the recent reorganization and SDSU Extensions commitment to the youth organization which more than 59,000 South Dakota youth participate in on an annual basis.

Peter Nielson, 4-H Program Director, explained that the SDSU Extension reorganization prioritized 4-H.

"The new 4-H Youth Program Advisors are fully committed to 4-H and youth programming. It's their only job."

A cost-share program between SDSU Extension and South Dakota counties provided for more than 30 4-H Youth Program Director positions to serve all counties in the state.

"Today there are more than 30 individuals dedicated to supporting 4-H and youth programming thanks to the synergy between SDSU Extension and counties throughout the state," Nielson said. "It's exciting to see that even on a limited budget, because of our strong commitment to give of the resources we have, we are able to ensure all South Dakota youth have the opportunity to be involved in 4-H and youth Extension programs."

Signature Programs for Food and Families

Communications technology has become a huge cultural and social factor in learning. SDSU Extension will deliver programs to young people through the use of Virtual Labs, and will recruit the next generation of professionals in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math, Dunn said.

Recruiting the next generation of Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) professionals is a priority said Suzanne Stluka, SDSU Extension Food & Families Program Director. Together with a team of dedicated field and state specialists, the Food & Families Program developed an on-line Virtual Lab that allows students to explore the food system and the scientific processes involved in creating a safe and abundant food supply.

"In the future there will be a shortage of food safety related careers, as well as a shortage in other STEM-related fields - remember the agriculture industry is a science-based industry. The Virtual Lab is a great way to spark students' interest because it allows them to experience basic lab techniques, as well as utilize hands-on kits that we provide to teachers," Stlutka said.

The program is sponsored through a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food & Agriculture. SDSU Extension developed the Virtual Lab in cooperation with New Mexico State University and North Dakota State University.

Signature Programs for Community Development

"We are continuing a very successful program called Horizons, and are accepting applications from communities that want to strengthen their economy and quality of life, Dunn said.

Since 2004, more than 40 rural communities in South Dakota have completed an in-depth community development program aimed at reducing poverty by building community leadership, said David Olson, SDSU Extension Community Development Program Director.

In 2012 Horizons IV will select between three and five communities, with less than 10,000 people to participate in the next 2-year cycle. The Horizons IV program offers communities a "coach," who is on staff with SDSU Extension Community Development.

Communities that have participated in previous Horizons programs have: earned more than $1.4 million in economic development grants, started four new community foundations, created three new community transportation systems, initiated seven community gardens and six Farmers Markets, started 10 community-owned thrift stores and six food pantries, and fostered at least 12 individually-opened businesses, and numerous programs for youth, elderly adults, and community wellness.

"Less tangible results heard from community members include observations of more and different people getting involved in leadership, people in town talking and working together on important community issues, and knowledge of where to find the resources needed to complete community projects," said Kari Fruechte, Community Development specialist. "Horizons is one-of-a-kind because it is a long-term investment form a community to itself."

Signature Programs for the Native American Community

Dunn said healthy food & healthy children will be the focus of SDSU Extension Native American Programs.

Because of the significant lack of economic resources and availability of healthy food in Indian Country, "Food deserts" is a term given to Reservations within South Dakota.

The Healthy Foods & Healthy Children Program aims to help individuals living on Reservations provide nutritious foods for their family and community through training that focuses on raising their own food and livestock.

"We're working to empower people to create their own access to nutritious food and the means to address their own issues," said Shawn Burke, SDSU Extension Native American Program director. "The benefits of eating traditional foods are well understood in Indian Country. We're encouraging people to embrace the concept of producing their own food, as well as selling that food to others."

The SDSU Extension Native American Program will be expanding the reach of programs like the Lakota Beginning Farmer/Rancher Training Program which began on the Pine Ridge Reservation and trained students in all aspects of food and livestock production, as well as business management.

"SDSU Extension plays an important role in Native American communities because it provides long-term services. These communities have a lot of experience with programs beginning and then going away. Extension is not going away," Burke said.

To view this article electronically, visit www.iGrow.org.

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