News Flash


Posted on: April 28, 2020

How U of M Extension is adjusting to continue serving Minnesota during COVID-19

MN 4H U of M logo.

The University of Minnesota and Extension are continuing their work in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. In every county and region, we are doing our best to adjust teaching situations and continue to serve participants and volunteers.

Every day we are responding to new challenges, starting with ensuring that our Extension staff are equipped to work remotely, even in areas where internet access is uneven. We have held virtual meetings, staff trainings and consultations with our partners and customers and will continue to do so. Extension’s priority has always been to provide opportunities for learning and growth, even when hands-on programs cannot be delivered.

A few examples of the innovations Extension staff have provided so far:

14 Days of nutritious meal planning for rural groceries and residents

Extension developed a toolkit for rural grocery stores and residents that allows for delivery of nutritious, low-cost ingredients for 14 days of staying home. The toolkit includes best practices for rural groceries to safely get food to high-risk residents in their communities.

Learning Virtually, Leading Actively: Resources for Community Leaders

Join Extension’s leadership and civic engagement team to explore topics that will help community leaders navigate this health and economic crisis. This is a free online series, open to anyone who wants to learn and connect with others across Minnesota to talk about the challenges and opportunities that exist in their work and communities. You can see all of our topics and register on our events page.

Virtual animal agriculture for Cottonwood County 4-H

Crystal Reith, an Extension educator in Cottonwood County, has engaged video technology and social media to keep teaching and spread the importance of animal agriculture knowledge with young people. "I have been doing ag in the classroom for years. Every spring, our family raises chicks and I bring them into first-grade classrooms to teach with. The students watch them grow and ask questions." Because classes have now gone online, Crystal decided to use this opportunity to bring students onto her farm using video and social media.

Retaining business during the pandemic

Extension’s community economics team is hosting a series of webinars featuring positive community leadership for business retention. Click here to register and access the 30 minute session scheduled for Tuesday, April 28 beginning at 9 am.

You can read more about how Extension staff are working hard to serve Minnesota at the Extension website, which is updated everyday. You can also stay up to date by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Common questions about how Extension is operating

I’d also like to address some of the questions my team and I have been asked.

As you know, all University of Minnesota non-curricular events have been cancelled through the end of June. University leaders consider many factors when they make decisions like this, but the health of University—and Extension—participants, volunteers, faculty and staff is the primary concern.

  • What will happen with county fairs? County fairs are governed by local officials so any decisions about whether fairs will take place are not made by Extension or the University.
  • What will youth do without the summer 4-H experiences like camp, project days or other hands-on learning experiences? Our staff are working to create opportunities for youth to learn and showcase their learning. Here are a couple of experiences coming up:

    • Meet NASA engineers who work on the MARS Rover program
    • 4-H Agronomy webinar training series to enhance the 4-H project experience
    • Videos from the farm such as candling eggs and eartagging calves
  • How will research happen for agriculture and natural resource programs? There are best-management plans in place for this to occur. Typical events like field days may occur virtually instead of face-to-face, using videos from the research plots.
  • What are staff doing if there aren’t the usual programs or people can’t be together to do the work? Extension staff have been developing online lessons, updating materials and also doing their own learning. Examples include:

    • SNAP-Ed Educators record their lessons for others to view
    • Educators update their presentations based on the latest agricultural research
    • Staff have had the chance to participate in their own learning and development, whether in their area of expertise, or learning a new technology tool that could enhance their programs.

Thank you for your continued support of Extension and the programs we offer. Your partnership and support is greatly appreciated.

The work currently being done by Extension staff might look different, but they are still teaching, sharing and learning to help Minnesota get through this crisis and beyond.

 I hope this update has been helpful and that you will share this information with your neighbors and colleagues. I plan to send similar updates at least once a month as long as we are working through this "new normal." Please feel free to contact me with your questions and ideas.

Kia Harries

Director, Statewide Operations

University of Minnesota Extension

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