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Jeffery K. Iles, Steven C. Padgitt, Peggy Petrzelka, and Wendy K. Wintersteen

A survey was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of Iowa State University (ISU) extension programs and services to the turfgrass, nursery, and landscape plant installation and maintenance industries in Iowa. Completed questionnaires were received from 294 individuals (55% response rate). Respondents indicated they have a continuing need for pest identification and management information and that ISU extension is an important source for this information. In general, most respondents said quality of information provided by ISU extension was better than that offered by horticultural consultants or product suppliers; however, only 48% said extension was doing very well delivering programs and information in a timely manner. Demand for on-site visits with extension specialists was greater than that for distance learning opportunities, suggesting that extension must do a better job of marketing and making relatively new communication technologies palatable.

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E.B. Poling

The U.S. land-grant university system has been coming under increasing criticism by a number of extension professionals, as well as senior horticulturists, for its primary emphasis on basic research at the expense of applied research and service to horticultural industries. Once-strong extension/research/producer ties have been weakened, and this could result in further declines in general public support for land-grant universities. New approaches, including a “participatory model,” have been proposed as a mechanism to provide public feedback to land-grant scientists on relevant areas of basic science and encourage implementation of new technologies. However, our present expert/student relationship between research scientists and grower would be altered if the participatory model were to be adopted. Recognizing the limitations of existing horticultural production systems and visualizing new purposes for technology is the work of “experts,” not committees. The experience in North Carolina has been that a commodity specialist with a split research/extension appointment (20/80) is capable of providing leadership and guidance `to the scientific community on the problems and research needs of industry. In the case of introducing North Carolina farmers to “strawberry plasticulture,” the split appointment specialist had a role in: 1) identifying useful technological innovations from outside the university community (“reverse technology”); 2) conducting localized testing on promising new “hybrid growing systems”; and 3) extending new research findings to industry.

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John M. Gerber

There is a fundamental need for the land grant system to debate and rediscover its place in society as a learning organization founded upon enhanced internal and external connectivity. Two critical connections are the linkage between research and extension, and cooperation among the states. As with any system in which the component parts are no longer functionally integrated, the land grant system is declining in vitality. Poor cooperation among states and weak linkages between the research and extension functions have reduced the capacity of the system to serve the public good. The New England Extension Consortium was created to enhance public access to the research base of the land grant universities and to increase the efficiency and efficacy of extension programs in the six New England states.

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James J. Zuiches

The Board on Agriculture, National Research Council, has established a committee to (a) review the land-grant system of colleges of agriculture, (b) provide an evaluation and assessment of the strengths, opportunities, myths, and stereotypes; and (c) provide a vision for future development and innovation in organizational structures, functions, and processes. The committee has been charged to discuss these topics with stakeholders and constituencies, invite dialogue and contributions to reconceptualizing the system, and create a synthesis and recommendation. At the workshop, I will sketch out the scope of the study, data collection strategies, and initiate the process of dialogue and critique.

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R. Daniel Lineberger

Studies by academic, extension, and private foundation think tanks have reaffirmed the land-grant philosophy as an important component of American society in the twenty-first century. Successful land-grant systems will have more closely integrated educational, research, and extension programs characterized as more accessible, affordable, and accountable than current models. The World Wide Web (Web) will play a key role in this transformation. Web technology is evolving rapidly, necessitating continuous and rapid adaptation by information providers (Lineberger, 1996a, 1996b; Rhodus and Hoskins, 1996). The availability of low-cost, user-friendly Web access through home TVs promises to upset the existing paradigms of extension information delivery through county offices and undergraduate instruction exclusively in the campus classroom. Some land-grant professionals have adopted Web technology as a tool to deliver educational programs and coursework; however, most have not, citing as justification the very steep learning curve and time involved in formatting materials for electronic delivery. We have emphasized the need for lifelong learning to our clientele and students; we must heed our own advice. Faculty must develop the ability to integrate appropriate technology into their own programs, since it is clear that land-grant systems of the future will not provide them with the support personnel to do it for them.

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R. Daniel Lineberger

The land-grant system was founded on the principle that education and information make a critical difference in people's lives, and that the government plays an important role in providing education and information by funding teaching, research, and extension programs. This mission was interpreted previously as a charge to establish great educational institutions to provide a low-cost, quality education to everyone who applied, to place extension professionals within every county in the nation, and to build massive research centers to provide a continuous flow of new, science-based information to all at no charge. My thesis is that the World Wide Web and other emerging information technologies represent the only solution to the dilemma faced by the land-grant system for providing research-based, high-quality education and information to a growing clientele at a reasonable cost. Aggie Horticulture (http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu), a Web server that is modeled on the land-grant principle, will be used as an example of one approach to land-grant programs of the 21st century.

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Diane Relf, Ellen Silva, and Virginia Nathan

In 1985 an extension consumer horticulture computer information system (HORT) was initiated on the Virginia Tech mainframe computer to mitigate the demands on agents' time while providing monthly professional updates and accurate, timely information for use in their local programs. Agents access the information through their office microcomputers, which are linked to the Virginia Tech mainframe computer. Agents can transfer the needed information onto a diskette for reference, immediate use, or further editing or print a hard copy on campus to be mailed to them. Slide sets or videotapes can be ordered from the Virginia Tech Learning Resource Center (LRC) on this system. The monthly releases are available at no charge to anyone in the land-grant system with a BITNET or Internet user identification number.

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R. Daniel Lineberger

Recent studies by academic, extension, and private foundation “think tanks” have reaffirmed the land-grant philosophy as an important component of American society in the 21st century. According to Bill Campbell's dictum, successful land-grant systems will have more closely integrated educational, research, and extension programs characterized as more ACCESSIBLE, AFFORDABLE, and ACCOUNTABLE than current models. The World Wide Web affords the land-grant professional an information delivery/teaching system that conforms to Campbell's three As. Web technology is evolving rapidly, necessitating continuous and rapid adaptation by information providers. The availability of low-cost, user-friendly Web access through home TVs promises to upset the existing paradigms of extension information delivery through county offices and undergraduate instruction exclusively in the campus classroom. Some land-grant professionals have adopted Web technology as a tool to deliver educational programs and coursework; however, the vast majority have not. Most faculty continue to distribute information in a printed form, citing as justification the very steep learning curve and time involved in formatting materials for electronic delivery. We have emphasized the need for life-long learning to our clientele and students; we must heed our own advice. The transition from a paper-based, county-centered extension delivery system and campus classroom-oriented undergraduate educational system is being facilitated by satellite and compressed video conferencing, and Web server networks. Faculty must develop the ability to integrate appropriate technology into their own programs, since it is clear that the “efficient” land-grant systems of the future will not provide them with the support personnel to do it for them.

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W.T. Kelley, D.M. Granberry, and D.C. Sanders

Hank Kemble is the only county agent role ever cast in a network television series. On Green Acres, Mr. Kemble always had advice for novice farmer Oliver Douglas. Unfortunately, Mr. Kemble's advice was usually vague and uncertain. More unfortunate is that this is the only image many people have regarding Cooperative Extension. As the last segment of the land-grant system established, Extension personnel were the last recognized as equals among faculty. The mistaken image of the county agent as a book-trained farm boy with no common sense and a government job has been reinforced by declining respect for the farming community. In reality, county agents today deal with social and agricultural issues in urban and rural communities. Agents work with reduced staffs while being educators, scientists, and administrators in addition to routine duties. Extension specialists routinely teach and conduct research. National and international recognition and peer-reviewed publications are necessary for promotion while conducting traditional duties, too. As educational requirements of agents and specialists increased, numbers of undergraduates entering Extension dropped (<1% of Univ. of Georgia horticulture graduates in the last 5 years). Georgia specialists with a PhD increased from 60% (1979) to 89% (1996). Agents with MS degrees increased from 36% (1987) to 45% (1996). Image, salary, and job security determine if Extension can attract qualified personnel. Extension was never a Hank Kemble organization and graduates must be convinced that Extension is a viable and respectable career and Hank Kemble doesn't work here anymore.

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Richard E. Durham and Candace Harker

The Consumer Horticulture Community of Practice (CHCoP), responsible for the Gardens, Lawns, and Landscapes section of eXtension, has historically answered over 35% of the questions submitted to “Ask an Expert” (AaE)—the eXtension online, e-mail based question and answer system. Extension Master Gardener (EMG) volunteers were initially recruited to help answer questions and were responsible for resolving over 50% of the horticulture-tagged questions in 2008. With the number of questions related to horticulture nearly doubling on an annual basis, there was concern that EMGs alone would not be able to respond to all the questions. However, as eXtension has become more institutionalized in the land-grant system, county- and state-level extension staff have been encouraged to be involved in AaE. While EMG volunteers continue to play a vital role in answering questions, state extension specialists, and more so, county extension staff, are answering questions as well. This balanced approach seems more sustainable and at least 75% of questions are now being answered by an expert in the same state where the question originated.