4-H at the State Fair Press Corp History video

In 2013 the New York State Fair (NYS Fair) opened an exhibit in the Grange Building celebrating its history. That exhibit included a video created by 4-H Youth Development showing 4-H presence at the State Fair over the years (see below).

More info on NYS 4-H at the State Fair online here: http://www.bctr.cornell.edu/4-h-at-the-2013-state-fair/

Related stories: Acting with Intent: Citizen U. And Civic Ensemble at the NY State Fair (2014)

(More than) A few minutes with Clarence Pagham and friends.

Clarence Pagham began work as a county agent in the Broome County in 1956 and after 26 years of service retired in 1982. He currently lives in Florida, but by sheer coincidence happened to drop by the Broome CCE office on September 12. This also happened to be the day of an Extension Reconsidered event in Broome. Given this fortunate confluence of events, and the availability of a video camera we were fortunate enough to be able to sit down with him, and some friends, after the official event for an interview.

During our conversation we discuss in agricultural extension in Broome county during his tenure and beyond.

Campus to Farm Guide

The Cornell Small Farms Program recently published a “Campus to Farm” guide that highlights everything from fruit to forestry projects led by Cornell faculty and educators around the state. The guide reveals the breadth of Cornell connected  research happening in New York State, and the deep connections between research and extension. It is a great example of outreach and a handy tool for navigating the sometimes bewildering corridors, byways and trails of research. If you are a small farmer, or interested in the current state of small farms research happening here at Cornell take a look!

An online version of the guide is available here: http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/projects/campus-to-farm-guide/

Or you can download a pdf of the guide here: http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/files/2013/08/CampusToFarmGuideFinal-15gjkke.pdf


Networks are the thing. Summary of our 2nd deliberative forum on campus

forum2wordcloud1On August 26th we facilitated a second deliberative forum here on campus at Cornell. During the hour and a half session a range of issues and focal points emerged. Some of these overlapped issues and ideas brought out during our first deliberative forum. But one of the strongest thematic areas to emerge from this forum addressed the idea of extension as a hub or networking lynchpin. This is a theme that is explored in depth in the publication “Extension 3.0: Agriculture Education and Outreach in the Age of Connectivity.” by Lubell and Niles.

Themes of funding, research (both on-campus and county based) and community were also strong during this session. County based deliberative forums kick off next week (September 10 in Albany county, September 12 in Broome) and will be continuing throughout the month. It will be interesting to track overlaps and divergences that arise as the forums move off-campus.

A few key highlights from the discussion:

  • Evidence based program – how much latitude does that give educators?
  • Reductive view of what an adult educator can do – how creative they can be – does this boxed them in?
  • Might lead to divisiveness between those who wrote the curriculum and those with local knowledge
  • Like the focus on impact
  • Established curriculum is helpful as a starting point – but not offering it robotically
  • My reality changes daily
  • CCE is trusted (and the university cannot get to the communities).  But is the trust going one way?
  • Sending rockets out into the world from Cornell University
  • Framing and interpreting rather than helping them figure it out on their own – need more freedom for engagement
  • Framing seems to be stuck in old model.  We now have a more collaborative approach to research.
  • We do need people who do research but needs to go in many different ways.  Who decides what gets to be researched?
  • Questions could start within the communities – that will inform research.
  • We need to be better at answering questions that people have right now.
  • Need big funding – and the sources of that funding based on the old model.
  • Fluidity – there is a self organize aspect which is scary – hard to manage, measure, replicate
  • Long term goal strengthen networks.
  • Need to think about regional programs rather that community based.  Funding is creating challenges to have communities be the focus unless through regional offices with long term view
  • Educators need to see their role more as networkers
  • This is the way of the future.

Ithaca Journal interview with Chris Watkins – Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension

In February of 2014 Chris Watkins, Professor Postharvest Physiology, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University and Associate Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension from 2006-2014, became Director of CCE. Recently the Ithaca Journal sat down with Chris to talk about the future of Cooperative Extension here in New York State.  In response to one question Watkins says “… out there in the real world, there’s a lot of different views of the role of government in this type of activity. A very good question is ‘Well, in the age of Google, why do you need extension?’ .
Visit this link to read the full interview and find his answer to the question “in the age of Google, why do you need extension?“.


Extension Methods Handbook – 1926

While we are considering the future of extension here in New York State it is important to remain aware of, and build upon, the vital and inspiring work of the past. It is all to easy to create an imagined past that is sometimes tenuously connect to the actual past – narrowing our view of the work of extension to be  something neat and tidy that strongly supports a particular outlook. Documents such as the Extension Methods Handbook from 1926 capture a diversity of extension work that may be unknown to some today.

A quick scan of the contents of the Extension Methods Handbook reveals the expected ( Poultry, Gardening, Dairy, etc.) and the surprising (Rural Engineering, Community Dramatics, Playground Demonstration and more). So, as we consider questions such as “How can Cornell Cooperative Extension continue to be relevant, engaged, accessible and valued in its work with New York State Families and Communities?”,  it is worth spending a little time with our history so that we can know the traditions, the methods and ways of working, that may have fallen by the wayside these past few decades.  There may be hidden treasure there that can help us as we re-consider.

Download the Extension Methods Handbook 1926 (pdf 11mb)

A Comment from Steve Young, Director of Northeast IPM Center

I’m the new Director of the Northeastern IPM Center, which is located on the Cornell campus. As our name implies, we cover the 12 states from Maine to West Virginia and DC with information and programming related to IPM or integrated pest management. Our vision is to commit to improving quality of life: healthy people, functioning ecosystems, and sustainable communities through effective pest management.

Much of what our Center does is similar to what Extension does and the exercise that is being conducted in part by CCE to reconsider Extension is both exciting and fearful. The question of how can CCE continue to be relevant, engaged, accessible, and valued in its work with NYS families and communities in the 21st Century is similar to the one that I have been asking in regards to the Northeastern IPM Center. Why would we ask this question and what do we expect to learn? A myriad of responses arise, such improving our image, reaching a wider audience, forging into new territory, and the list goes on. It is important to remember that Extension is different. What do I mean by this? If you take an historical view of Extension, you will see the very first programs were focused on education and providing knowledge to farmers and rural folks about growing crops and feeding people. Research was conducted and results were translated to practical information upon which clientele made decisions and could think about what they were doing and ways to do it better or more efficiently.

The early days of Extension were designed to make people think. Fast forward to today and the approach has largely remained the same, but society has not. There is an increasing demand for quick and simple solutions with the click of a mouse or use of an app that does not require a lot of thought. It is more difficult in this day and age to engage the general public in thinking critically and in a systems manner to address many of the problems and issues that now have expanded beyond just agriculture. Because we want quick answers and more private sources are willing to provide them, Extension, with its focus on knowledge generation and dissemination, is not always out in the front and is often slower to respond, which puts us in a less than desirable position in today’s increasingly competitive world.

There will never be a time when education and knowledge is not important, but the bigger question beyond CCE being relevant, engaged, accessible, and valued in its work with NYS families and communities in the 21st Century is how are we, including the Northeastern IPM Center going to maintain our focus on producing and disseminating knowledge and not loose our impact because the solutions we provide require systems thinking and broad approaches. More than anyone else, Extension contributes to a science literate society, which benefits everyone for both the short- and long-term. Can we maintain or dare I say expand this? We have to. There is no other option and I have some ideas on how.

Extension Reconsidered Deliberative Forum held on Cornell Campus 6/25/14

On June 25th we held our first deliberative forum, here on campus. This first forum was a ‘beta test’ in many ways, allowing us to test our issues guide and the forum process. The continually surprising result (and this happens whenever we gather people together under the extension reconsidered umbrella) is that people are passionate, creative and concerned about the cooperative extension system.

A few key highlights from the discussion:

  • Need to be clear on what CCE’s competitive advantage is
  • CCE has a responsibility to push the cutting edge
  • CCE might be more intentional about handing off initiatives (start new programs with the intent of spinning them off)
  • CCE’s role is to focus on emerging and new issues (once no longer an emerging issue abandon or hand off)
  • Need to mix and blend ongoing and new programs
  • CCE is involved in all 3 views but might be more intentional in exploring trade-offs
  • Other entities have outreach; we can offer high quality educational programs for the public; emerging issues backed by sound science
  • Maintain two way exchange with communities; dialog with communities
  • Extension educators have a unique role; sometimes a mediating role (historically the role has not changed that much); trusted intermediaries; ability to synthesize info
  • Indications that regional ag programming has been successful; educators more highly trained; easier for faculty to build relationships with the specialists
  • We need a mix of regional specialists and educators working at the community level.
  • Can CCE shift from being competitive to collaborative?
  • Site and context matters – local interpretation important
  • CCE – providing clean science communication environments
  • CCE needs educators who can deal with polarization and who can navigate complex and controversial issues
  • Time to offer Public Issues Education again
  • There can be risks to reaching out to new audiences; community engagement can put you at risk; expectations can be high
  • Community development knowledge needed
  • We want educators who enjoy their positions; have to recognize their stress and help them set limits
  • Having an impact is important; content with some community development skills can lead to impact and success
  • CCE can support education, democracy and a civil society

Working poems

Lately I have been kicking off workshops and some meetings with a poem. This is not a startling new innovation – folks have been doing it for quite some time now – but I’ve begun compiling a collection of what I am calling ‘working poems’. They are linguistic wrenches in my toolbox of conversational (or dialogic, if you want to be fancy) engagement. And,as one workshop attendee replied to me recently “Can’t beat a session that starts with poetry…”. These are my current working poems:

This is an abbreviated list, poems I’m currently employing. I’d be interested in knowing if you have ‘working poems’. Leave a comment and share a favorite or two and help this list grow.

Compost Theater – performing education.

While there is a history of using the arts in extension work, it is often not the first thing people think of when the think of our work. But there are elements of theater in much of the educational outreach we do – even if it is not defined, or thought of, as such. Leading an engaging workshop can be a performance art. If we think back to the educators in our lives who had the most impact it is easy enough to identify the “theater” of teaching at work.

And sometimes the theater is explicit. Compost Theater is one example of a deliberate and constructive use of ‘theater arts’ as an educational tools. Compost Theater was born in the Tompkins County Cooperative Extension Compost Education program. With a 3 member cast, Compost Theater happened in a diversity of locations with audiences drawn from across the life span.



For those of youPopular theater in Nicaragua - educating coop members about a new law looking for more information on theater – particularly a thread called “Popular Theater – and it’s use in educational programming a starting point would be Bates, R. A. (1996). Popular theater: A useful process for adult educators. Adult Education Quarterly46(4), 224-236.

Popular theater is deeply tied to the Latin American Popular Education movement and has roots in the work of Paulo Freire (among others).  To learn more about popular education this article at infed http://infed.org/mobi/popular-education/ will give you some background and sources for further reading.



What we talk about when we talk about Extension

The work of extension is bound up in the doing. It is a practice and an art and evolves continually to meet new needs and challenges. But the why of what we do is sometimes obscured by the how of actually doing it. For a number of years now Scott Peters, current Faculty Co-Director, Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life and Associate Professor at Cornell University, has been actively working to reveal the why embedded in the how of extension work. Through a series of publications based on practitioner stories  he has revealed a depth of commitment and emotion, as well as a broad range of motivations, in those who enact the work of extension.

You can read some of those stories in:

Catalizying Change (pdf)

WeGrowPeople (pdf)


The Arts and Community Youth Development: Drawing Lessons from Stories of Practice by Hélène Grégoire with a preface by Scott Peters


Pest Pinochle – Fun for the whole family

If you are one of those people who pay attention to developments in online education there is a fair amount of talk about these days about the “gamification” (a ungainly term at best) of learning. But there is nothing new or earth shattering about the idea of using ‘play’ to engage learners and deepen understanding. The New York State Integrated Pest Management Program is well aware of this fact and has used an old school approach to educate about IPM practices.

pest-pinochlePlaying cards is a time honored way to pass the time and create social bonds in many communities. I grew up in a rural community and can recall many nights spent around the table with friends and relatives playing pitch or pinochle or rummy. Successfully merging this tradition with an educational intent is a great example of creatively re-shaping extension education to reach a target audience.

Want to learn how to play Pest Pinochle? Whether you want to learn about pests in the home or what the farmer down the road is doing, there’s a pinochle deck for you! Check out the IPM_pinochle_instructions (pdf).

To get your own Pest Pinochle decks, contact Karen English, kje7@cornell.edu, 315-787-2624.

You can learn more about the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program – Just click on this link.

A few minutes with Judson Reid

A short conversation with Judson Reid, of the Cornell Vegetable Program, about the work of Extension and cross-cultural engagement. Judson works with farmers, including a growing population of Amish and Mennonite, in central and western New York. During this conversation we talk about the challenges of encountering and working with diverse communities including issues such as maintaining ones identity while being open to other cultures, approaches to engaging diverse communities and much more.

Is e-X-tension relevant? A comment we received, and a question for you.

We received this comment about eXtension, and would be interested in any responses you might have. Does eXtension represent an attempt to revitalize extension work, or does the story of eXtension provide a cautionary tale?

“I believe that the eXtension.org site was created with the idea that it would be the vehicle for reconsidering, or re-imagining, extension. My perception is that it has not been successful beyond a few specific interest groups. I’m involved with a community of practice that has been very active, but our own websites get far more ‘hits’.

Envisioned as a sort of ‘wikipedia’ -type collaborative effort, it has a very rigid structure, and it focuses on branding ‘extension’ as the service, rather than making information easy to find. With search engines being the first line of inquiry, why would anyone go to the ‘eXtension’ site?

Is the overall eXtension effort salvageable? If one takes away the ‘wiki’, what value does it add? Or is it another entrenched bureaucracy?”