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Not taking Extension or on-farm cooperation for granted

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Young farmer and a young Extension agent walk into a field and advance something in a good direction.

I've seen it before many times. I bet you've seen it before, too. An interaction so common, I take it for granted. I shouldn't. I hope it remains common.

To be honest, the thought didn't hit me until after I pulled away from the field and the parting handshakes. I wasn't sure if I'd just left something from the past or left something perpetual. Maybe it was a little of both.

I saw a young farmer and a young Extension agent working together to help find data-backed answers to share with others, working together to advance something in a good direction.

More than 107 years ago, the Smith-Lever Act created a framework to advance something in a good direction, cutting the path to deliver useful information, or proven science-based ideas and practices people can use to make their lives or the lives of others better.

The Smith-Lever Act was revolutionary. Historic.

Extension today remains dynamic. Perpetual.

Extension information is readily available, and often comes with no additional fee, other than good tax dollars (whether local, state, federal or a combination of the three) going to a good program.

The delivery of Extension has evolved with the unbelievable advancement of the powerful communication technologies and pathways we have today. But that might have a double edge. That, along with what has been tighter budgetary hurdles, means fewer Extension personnel in some locations. Certainly, fewer personnel now than when I started this business almost a quarter-century ago.

For more than 100 years, Extension and our land-grant colleges have been the premier training ground for agriculture, or at least the hands-on, in-the-field side of it. I worked at a Southern land-grant university for a dozen years, my position partly funded by Extension. I left a decade ago to ply the pasture I'm in now. I don't know what little value Extension lost, or this new pasture gained.

I do know I can name right now more than a dozen Extension agents or specialists, all still valuable major talents in their fields, who moved to careers in the industry outside of Extension in recent years. If I thought harder, could name scores more from over the years.

Major talents in Extension right now work together, whether directly or indirectly, with farmers and industry partners to advance good things in good directions across our country's great agricultural landscape.

Good things don't just happen. Better ways don't either. Takes more than one good person working with more than one good person trying to make something better. It's nice to be able to take that for granted. But we shouldn't.

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