Extension: No longer Tennessee’s best kept secret

Category: Column

Since so many 25-year-plus University of Tennessee Extension veterans say I’m the first president to visit their offices, I am going to claim to be the first president to make all 95! Since February I’ve visited 51 offices across the state, so I still have several visits remaining. It is inspirational to see the amazing men and women who dedicate their lives to making their communities and our state better. They represent our University so well.

On each visit, I have three missions. First, I say thank you to them on behalf of everyone at the University for the great work they do every day. They are appreciated, and I don’t think we can ever say thank you enough. Second, I let them know that it’s great for me to get to know the team, their community and the programs they deliver. While every county has similarities, there are differences too. Agriculture and natural resources support is quite different in Lake County than it is in McMinn County, and family and consumer sciences is very different in Davidson County than it is in White County. Finally, I ask how I can help, and also ask agents for their one wish that could make Extension better in their counties. I’ve received more than 100 wishes. The exciting thing is that many are very practical and we have a chance at delivering on them.

One common wish is they no longer want to be “the best kept secret” in the state. While it’s true that key constituents know them, many don’t. Join me in helping to change that – my President’s Column is just a one small contribution toward that cause.

Did you know that UT Extension supports more than 180,000 youth 4-H Club members? We have the largest 4-H Club membership in the country. Beyond raising and showing animals, students also learn skills ranging from public speaking to civics to personal finance and, even, cooking. In fact, I met the Marion County fish cooking team just before it left for New Orleans to compete in a national competition with its “flounder with Tennessee stuffing” dish. And, it won!

Our family and consumer sciences agents provide programming on everything from canning classes to Tai Chai for senior citizens with arthritis. Co-parenting, financial literacy, nutrition for all ages and healthy relationships are just a few of the many great programs they offer. I was so impressed with White county agent Tracey Hackett, who adapted some of these programs for jail inmates to give them a better chance for success after their release. These agents amaze me with their dedication to serving their communities and their innovation.

Speaking of 4-H and “wishes,” shouldn’t our 4-H camps be given every bit of support we can to make them safe from dangerous intruders? We are happy to announce that working with our state’s leaders, we were allotted $1.7 million to add new security to protect our youth.

While there are still wishes left to address, I hope we can continue to share the great stories of our dedicated agents and to make Extension no longer the best kept secret in Tennessee.

Randy Boyd


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