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Around The South Logo.

Compiling SRDC and national news, recent publications, upcoming conferences and events, and job opportunities, this monthly newsletter furnishes a brief overview of announcements from the Southern region.

Recent Issues
October 2022 Main Topics

2022 Broadband Issue Brief Webinar Series

Are you interested in learning more about bridging the digital divide by advancing digital access and literacy? The Southern Rural Development Center is hosting a webinar series to share research that can help to inform Extension efforts. Presenters will discuss recently published Broadband Issue Briefs and the Regional Rural Development Center’s recent Listening Sessions initiative.

The webinars will be hosted in three parts, to view more information and to register for the webinars, review the flyer.

Association of Public Land-Grant Universities (APLU) Member Universities Contribute to Knowledge About What Works for Rural Broadband Access

A recently published Theme issue of the Journal Choices features faculty from APLU member universities and describes how they are working in their communities to expand access to rural broadband, evaluate broadband efforts, and scale approaches that work.

The publication, entitled “Making it Count: Applying Science to Support Universal Broadband” was edited by APLU Strategic Advisor for Economic and Community Development Sheila Martin. It includes articles from faculty of APLU member universities including Oklahoma State University, Washington State University, Purdue University,University of Missouri, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Georgia Tech, University of Tennessee Knoxville, Clemson University, and Penn State University.

Expanded investments in rural broadband will only be effective if guided by accurate data, community-driven planning, engaged research, and successful models. This issue explores how to apply the best information and processes to guide effective investments of limited resources to expand access.

The issue is the result of two virtual conferences supported by a grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture that intentionally paired university faculty with Cooperative Extension to ensure connectivity between research and extension in the area of rural broadband. The content was guided by an advisory committee including Monica Babine, Wendy Fink, Robert Gallardo, Sascha Meinrath, Rachel Welborn, Brian Whitacre, and Milan Ephraim.

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: North Carolina (NC) Extension: CREATE BRIDGES

The North Carolina (NC) Extension team is moving forward with the implementation of multiple strategies under the CREATE BRIDGES initiative in Western, NC. Backed by research conducted in 2021, this region has identified the tourism sector as its primary economic driver and is now focused on delivery of trainings in support of both employers and employees. In Spring 2022, it held a face-to-face Got Your Back Business Summit covering a number of different topics related to employee retention and recruitment. This training is currently being converted to an online format and will be made available to all businesses in the retail, accommodation, entertainment, and tourism sectors. Employees in this sector will soon be incentivized to participate in online soft skills trainings and certifications in retail management and Servsafe trainings. Employers are also being encouraged to dig deeper into the talent pool to meet current labor shortages.

Employee Highlight: Olivia Antonio-Ventura, North Carolina (NC) Cooperative Extension Service

Olivia Antonio-Ventura has served as a Regional Educator for the Farmworker Health & Safety Program with NC Cooperative Extension since 2020. Not only does she present workshops for farmworkers in two counties in Eastern North Carolina, she is involved in the ongoing development of educational materials and helping with various Extension projects focused on the Agricultural Community. Ms. Antonio-Ventura is a tremendous resource to her county offices as well as the entire community.

Olivia’s family migrated from a small town right outside Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca, Mexico, in search of an opportunity for a better life. Growing up, Olivia and her family traveled up and down the east coast following the picking season. The family settled in Naples, Florida, where Olivia was born, and then moved to North Carolina and New Jersey. During the time that her parents were migrant farmworkers, Olivia would sometimes help them pick blueberries or chop off tobacco flowers. Ms. Antonio-Ventura always dreamed about being a teacher. She pursued a degree at Fayetteville State University and received a Bachelor of Science in Birth-Kindergarten, with a minor in Social Work. Combining both her personal life experience and her educational background, Olivia is a perfect member of NC State’s Farmworker Education Team. Over the past two years, she has done an excellent job connecting with growers, Farm Labor Contractors, farmworkers, and community partners. Ms. Antonio-Ventura frequently expresses that she enjoys helping her community and making sure they have the resources they need. When Olivia talks to the farmworkers, she identifies with them. Her future plans are continuing to help provide resources and information to her community.

LAUNCH ISSUE

September 2022 Main Topics

Bridging the Digital Divide in Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Communities in the South Individual Digital Capital Survey Results

Recently a survey was conducted to better understand digital disparities among socio-economically disadvantaged groups in the South. The findings from that survey can be seen within this report. Additionally, a webinar to discuss the findings will take place on Monday, October 3, 2022, at 2:30 PM CT/3:30 PM ET.

REGISTER FOR THE WEBINAR

 

Southern Region Indicators: Standard and COVID-19 Impacts

Each year, indicators are collected from states in the Southern Region to show the collective impact of Extension community development programs.

The collected and compiled highlights show the jobs created, grants awarded, plans new and revised for community development, and networking connections made throughout the previous year. Short vignettes also provide insights behind the metrics.

In addition to this report, states also provided COVID-19 response impacts to show how each has continued to navigate through the challenges of the pandemic.

VIEW THE ANNUAL AND COVID-19 IMPACTS FOR 2022

 

Population Matters: Demography and Well-Being in Rural America

The Rural Population Research Network (RPRN), hosted a symposium entitled “Population Matters: Demography and Well-Being in Rural America” on September 16, 2022. This hybrid event held at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities office in Washington, DC included an option of Zoom participation. A multi-state project, the RPRN brings together applied scholars to better understand the causes and consequences of demographic change in rural America (for an example, please visit the Rural Population Research Network webpage). Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC) Director, John J. Green was one of symposium panelists, and he spoke on important intersections between population change and digital access in relation to community vitality.

LAUNCH ISSUE

August 2022 Main Topics

The Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) Showcasing its Support for the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) Priorities

The RRDCs have been working to showcase support for the ECOP Priorities and to continue to uplift the interests of the Land-Grant in mutually supporting these great efforts.

For more information, check out two publications: Regional Rural Development Centers Leadership Contributions, and Alignment with the ECOP Advocacy Topics.

SRDC Staff Participates in the Meetings with the Association of Extension Administrators

Reflections from Southern Rural Development Center Director, John J. Green

The Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC), was pleased to join the Association of Extension Administrators (AEA) Conference in Orlando, FL.

The AEA meeting focused on advancing the mission of the 1890 Land-Grant System by providing a forum for the exchange of information and expansion of networks.

In addition to engaging with colleagues and gaining insights on the exciting and innovative programs being offered by 1890 institutions, Michael Wilcox (North Central Regional Center for Rural Development, NCRCRD) and Dr. John Green met with colleagues to help strengthen relationships between the RRDCs and our 1890 Land-Grant partners. Additionally, Dr. Green was invited to deliver a presentation on the SRDC’s work, highlighting opportunities for research and Extension collaboration that transcend institutional and state boundaries.

To learn more about the Association of Extension Administrators (AEA), visit http://1890aea.org/.

SRDC Participates in Meetings with the Rural Sociological Society

The Rural Sociological Society (RSS) conference was a great compliment to the AEA meeting. Bringing together rural sociologists and other social scientists to share innovative research designs and findings, the conference helped identify numerous ways of advancing research to inform Extension programs concerned with the quality of life in rural America. The meeting included a dynamic panel on heirs’ property. The end of the RSS meeting Dr. Dreamal Worthen (Florida A&M University) completed her term as the 2021-2022 President, and Dr. John Green, SRDC Director, began his term as President (2022-2023).

As part of both meetings, Dr. Green was able to help disseminate insights from the Regional Rural Development Centers’ (RRDCs) collective survey and virtual listening session project to inform rural recovery and further community, economic, and workforce development.

To learn more about those findings, visit www.usu.edu/rrdc/listening-sessions.

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: Alabama Extension: CRDC at AAMU

Community Resource Development (CRD) provides education and resources that empower marginalized communities to overcome barriers and achieve equity, resilience, and mobility. CRD also addresses complex social, economic, and environmental issues. Alabama Extension at Alabama A&M University’s CRD program area focuses on creating economic opportunities with people-centric approaches.

CRD Programs
All CRD programs are available in-person and virtually. The CRD team currently offers the following programs:

  • Career Countdown: is an interactive, two-part workshop that provides insights to link interests, skills, and abilities to career choices. Aimed at middle and high school students, participants engage in a realistic simulation involving managing a proposed salary and budget to meet lifestyle choices.
  • Filing for Success: is a four-part series in which participants explore all the legal requirements for becoming a small business owner. Participants are also trained on how to complete each process on their own.

CRD at Work
In the past year, the CRD team trained 511 Alabamians in small business development. After completing the Business Modeling 101 series, 74 percent of participants felt ready to design profitable business models compared to 24 percent prior to the class. The CRD team also piloted the Birmingham Community Incubator, a collaborative project that involved six weeks of education and coaching, micro-grants, and the opportunity to network among women business owners of color. After attending this class, 100 percent of graduates continue to grow their businesses.

In addition to offering other dynamic programs, the CRD team manages the Small Business Café, a Facebook group for entrepreneurs. Contact Extension Assistant Director Kimberly Sinclair-Holmes at (256) 372-4941 or visit the CRD website for more information.

LAUNCH ISSUE

July 2022 Main Topics

SRDC Staff Participates in the Delta Regional Forum

Reflections from Southern Rural Development Center Director, John J. Green

I have long been involved in the Delta Directions Consortium (DDC), a diverse and ever-evolving network of scholars and practitioners associated with universities, nonprofit organizations, and philanthropic foundations. Among other endeavors, DDC partners put on the Delta Scholars Program (DSP) and the Delta Regional Forum (DRF). The Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC) has been involved in these programs this year.

An important part of the DSP includes the students participating in the DRF, organized by the SRDC and the Center for Populations Studies (CPS) (through the latter’s Delta Fellows Program). The Forum is an annual event intended to provide time and space for sharing diverse perspectives and experiences on development issues and strengthen capacity for applied research and community development action. With activities including presentations, panels, workshops, and even a film screening, diverse participants gain information and expand their networks across community and university lines. This year’s Forum including reflections from leaders within the Delta Regional Authority and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Office in Mississippi.

 

SRDC Participates in the Delta Scholars Program

Reflections from Southern Rural Development Center Director, John J. Green

The Delta Scholars Program (DSP) brings together diverse students from the Southern Region and beyond to learn about social change, community development, and cultivating public service. Engaging with the experiences of people working in the Delta, Scholars explore innovative approaches to problem solving that can be applied to their professional lives.

Over a two-week period, they spend time in Delta communities (Mississippi and Arkansas) and on the Mississippi State University (MSU) campus. Scholars develop a capstone project informed by what they learned from Delta leaders. Their projects are intended to make contributions to improve the quality of life and wellbeing in the communities where they are from, where they are going to school, or care about in general; thus, this impacts a range of communities across the region and nation. Cohorts are selected through a competitive application process, and this year’s group included 18 representatives from across ten colleges/universities and six states.

Read the Original DRF and DSP Reflections Article

 

SERA-47 Impact Statement: Research and Extension to Support Local Food Systems

SERA-47 has recently released its impact statement regarding the Research and Extension to Support Local Food Systems.

In the South, local food systems face numerous complex issues, such as barriers to entry, fragmentation, and racial injustice. These issues can keep producers and consumers from fully participating in local food systems. Strengthening local food systems can improve food access for consumers, increase farmer profitability, stabilize and/or grow local economies, and enhance community viability.

Land-grant universities are uniquely positioned to help make local food systems more vibrant, resilient, and just. To read the full impact statement, visit https://www.mrfimpacts.org/.

 

The Rural Renewal Initiative Call for Nominations: 2022 Rural Renewal Research Prize

The Rural Renewal Initiative at Oklahoma State University is looking for nominations for the 2022 Rural Renewal Research Prize. This research prize (and $5k honorarium) recognizes the work of a deserving individual.

The Rural Renewal Initiative inspires, empowers, and coordinates rural renewal research at Oklahoma State University and beyond. The Rural Renewal Initiative supports interdisciplinary research by funding seed grant projects looking to improve the lives of people in rural communities and providing them with trained student research scholars to lead community-engaged and participative research.

The Rural Renewal Initiative will host its annual Rural Renewal Symposium in Stillwater, Oklahoma, October 5, 2022, to expand and empower its network of collaborating faculty, students, and community leaders. The symposium will include the research of faculty, research scholars, and other technical and social scientists who have researched in and for rural communities. The Rural Renewal Research Prize will be awarded at the Rural Renewal Symposium. This award will honor a global leader in rural renewal research, education, and engagement. Nominations are due August 12, 2022.

More information about the symposium and nominations can be found here on the Rural Renewal Initiative webpage.

 

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: TXFED Peer-learning Supports Farmers and Farmers Markets

The number of U.S. small farms and beginning farmers continues to increase, but tight profit margins create barriers to farm creation and viability. The Texas Food Education & Discovery network (TXFED) helps farmers, food businesses, and farmers markets increase customers and sales and develop new market opportunities. Online, on-demand (asynchronous) courses provide content created by and for farmers and farmers market organizers, along with trusted organizations.

TXFED is led by the Texas Center for Local Food along with some institutional and many other collaborators from across the state of Texas. It is a peer-learning network that recognizes the unique expertise of farmers and the importance of prioritizing experience and real-world applications. More than 50 experienced farmers and market organizers share their hands-on, practical knowledge and co-creating courses with 13 respected organizations in the Texas local foods environment. The result is practical, relatable courses with evaluated learning objectives, consistent course design, and related worksheets, templates, and external resources. Topic teams consisting of collaborating organizations vet course objectives and content to provide reliable, high-quality courses and consistency across course series. Current courses for farmers include a series whether selling at a farmers’ market is right for your business, selling at the farmers market for beginners, and beginners guide to using social media to build your farm. Courses for farmers market managers include how to create a welcoming farmers market for SNAP shoppers, introduction to measuring your farmers market impact, and using Instagram to promote your farmers’ market. Additional courses are in development.

With more than 500 enrollments in the first year, the first 9 courses average 4.6/5 stars. Courses have proven especially valuable to beginning farmers and individuals exploring starting a farm business. The online courses are available on-demand at the TXFED platform. Courses have closed captioning and Spanish subtitles.

To explore available courses, visit the TXFED website at https://www.txfed.org/. Check back often for new content.

LAUNCH ISSUE

 

June 2022 Main Topics

Ms. Joy Moten-Thomas Named as the Recipient of the 2022 Bonnie Teater Lifetime Achievement Award

The Southern Rural Development Center is proud to honor Ms. Joy Moten-Thomas as the 2022 recipient of the Bonnie Teater Community Development Lifetime Achievement Award. Ms. Moten-Thomas has over 25 years of experience working with diverse minority audiences, inclusive of youth and adults throughout Georgia.

In support of Ms. Moten-Thomas’ nomination, Dr. Mark Latimore, Associate Dean of the Cooperative Extension Program at Fort Valley State University, stated, “She carries herself with dignity and respect and represents our program with this same regard at the national, state, and local levels.” Furthermore, Ms. Doris Evans-Gates, Manager of the Georgia WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs at the Georgia Department of Health, stated, “[Ms. Moten-Thomas] has been extremely instrumental in increasing the visibility of the Fort Valley State University Cooperative Extension Program and fostering community development and partnerships throughout the state. Her dedication and efforts are invaluable to the farm community and our program recipients.”

Full Press Release

RRDCs Continue to Celebrate Year-long 50th Anniversary with Proclamations from NACDEP and SAAS

The National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP) and the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists (SAAS) recently released proclamations in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Regional Rural Development Centers and their significant contributions and continuous leadership role of rural America.

The Southern Rural Development Center is thankful to both organizations for their national and regional support to the center.

Each proclamation can be found via the SRDC website, here: NACDEP PROCLAMATION & SAAS PROCLAMATION

Center Staff Attend Annual Meeting of the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals

Reflections from Southern Rural Development Center Director, John J. Green

In early June, Grace Langford, Extension Associate; Rachel Welborn, Associate Director; and I had the privilege of representing the Southern Rural Development Center (SRDC) in attending the annual meeting of the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP) held in Indianapolis, IN.

The four Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) participated in a session that reflected on the past 50 years and looked to the future. The session included moderation of a panel discussion by Sarah Rocker with the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This was an appropriate setting for such an event, given that the RRDCs have been involved with NACDEP since its beginning, and because the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development is hosted by Purdue University. We also had an RRDC exhibit at the conference.

Other highlights for our involvement in NACDEP included participation in a Program Leaders pre-conference meeting, presenting posters on SRDC-affiliated projects, and co-facilitation of an introductory version of Coming Together for Racial Understanding dialogue processes during a post-conference workshop. We had the opportunity to interact with professionals from a diverse set of institutions, including attendees from the 1890 and 1994 Land-Grant systems. Furthermore, we presented the Bonnie Teater Community Development Lifetime Achievement Award to Ms. Joy Moten-Thomas, our colleague from Fort Valley State University.

These are just some of the highlights from a great NACDEP conference. It was a busy and productive time, especially after so much time apart because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: 25th Annual Small Scale Farmers Conference

Langston University’s School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences (LU-SAAS) held the 25th Annual Small Scale Farmers Conference on June 1st and 2nd in Edmond, OK with an attendance of more than 150 participants. The conference was the first in-person gathering of farmers, ranchers, agriculture students, farmers market managers, and other key agriculture stakeholders after the two years hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The conference attendees came from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Tennessee. The event featured educational information during breakout sessions, panel discussion, farm tours, an engaging keynote address from a national speaker, and networking opportunities.

This year’s conference theme was “Innovate, Grow, and Succeed in Food and Agriculture: Avenue to Building Stronger Oklahoma Communities.” Several speakers with different expertise presented on various topics including how to start a new farm, smart agriculture and climate considerations, Heirs’ Property, Oklahoma Food Freedom Act, USDA programs and resources, and others.

For over two decades, the Langston University Small Farmers Conference has been the premier annual event for Oklahoma’s small and diversified farming community to learn about tools, resources, and ideas for operating profitable farms. The conference helps the participants experience continuing education and enjoy farmer-to-farmer networking.

We look forward to continuing to build this growing conference in partnership with the small and diversified farm community of Oklahoma.


For additional information contact James Arati at jarati@langston.edu or 405-466-6167

LAUNCH ISSUE

 

May 2022 Main Topics

Recent Workshops Conducted to Build Capacity for Racial Understanding and Broadband Access

Recently, workshops were conducted in support of national initiatives that help to build capacity for inclusiveness and economic vibrancy.

Coming Together efforts have materialized in three new states being trained, West Virginia, Nebraska, and South Dakota, as well as expanding existing state teams.

To view the 2021 Coming Together impact video and previous team photos, as well as learn more about the project, please visit the Coming Together landing page.

Another workshop, Advancing Digital Access, provided training on broadband access and digital literacy. This workshop engaged participants from across eight states. Groups will be piloting materials to help refine for a national rollout in the coming months.

To stay connected with upcoming efforts, consider joining the Broadband Access & Digital Skills community of practice.

Center Staff Attend the Southern Region Mini-Land Grant Meeting

Reflections from Southern Rural Development Center Director, John J. Green

In mid-May, Rachel Welborn (SRDC Associate Director) and I had the opportunity to attend the Southern Region Mini-Land Grant meeting held in College Station, TX. Hosted by Texas A&M University AgriLife and Prairie View A&M University College of Agriculture and Human Sciences, this event brought together representatives from Land-Grant institutions, including regional administrative, academic, research, and Extension leaders, along with national partners from associated organizations.

Participants strengthened and expanded networks, shared insights for mutual benefit, and had business meetings amongst their respective associations. We were able to participate in several of the latter, including engaging sessions with the Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors, Association of 1890 Research Directors, Association of Southern Region Extension Directors, and the 1890 Association of Extension Administrators. Additionally, we attended plenary presentations, and I presented information on regional population change and implications for research and Extension as part of the panel entitled, “Who Is Our Audience”.

All told, it was a great conference. Having started in this position with the SRDC last summer amid the pandemic, it was refreshing to see people in person, renew connections with past colleagues, and meet new partners that I look forward to working with for years to come. We left the meeting with input on how the SRDC can help to strengthen rural development capacity in the Southern Region.

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: The Kentucky State University Community and Resource Development team takes care of its own backyard— like the local businesses in Frankfort.

The City of Frankfort’s economic recovery grants were made available to businesses that fit certain criteria to help mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19 on small businesses. A total of 97 grants were awarded for a total amount of $966,600.
Kentucky State’s CRD team got involved to make sure businesses outside of the city’s typical communication network. Gill Finley Jr. and Chris Cribbs reached out to business owners they knew and knocked on the doors of those they didn’t. They reached people who often miss communications from the City of Frankfort, said Rebecca Hall, Community Engagement and Grants Manager.

More on this article can be found in the May 2022 issue of Around the South

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: County Government Personnel Education and Training, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Oklahoma State University

The OSU of the South is proud to highlight the “County Training Program” (CTP). Oklahoma law calls for education and training of county elected officials and their personnel and this assignment is given to the Cooperative Extension Service. The purpose is to enhance the effectiveness, efficiency, and professionalism of the public services provided by these public officials. This fiscal year (2021-2022) CTP provided 81 short courses and provided credit hours for additional training to more than 3,400 participants. Credit hours and specific short courses count toward three level of certification. 118 certificates were earned and awarded.

More on this article can be found in the May 2022 issue of Around the South

LAUNCH ISSUE

 

April 2022 Main Topics

Phase II of the Listening Sessions Initiative for Rural Community, Economic, and Workforce Development

An interactive data dashboard has been launched where users can explore data from Investing in Rural Recovery, a report on findings from the Regional Rural Development Centers’ (RRDCs) survey of rural development stakeholders. The dashboard was created in collaboration with the Extension Foundation. Users can combine and display results in a variety of ways.

Virtual listening sessions have also now been completed. These sessions represent Phase II of the RRDC initiative and brought together stakeholders for facilitated dialogue to identify critical investment opportunities. Eight sessions were held in total, with themes for discussion informed by the survey’s results. Four regional sessions identified high priority investments across research, Extension, and other capacities for the topic areas most important to the given region. In addition, four nation-wide listening sessions were conducted on cross-cutting issues. These covered the topics of: Broadband and the Digital Divide; Community Planning, Leadership, and Governance; Rural Innovation and Entrepreneurship; and Workforce Development, Training, and Education. Following analysis of findings from these facilitated discussions, an overall report will be generated, reviewed, and disseminated to stakeholders. Updates can be found on the Listening Session landing page.

Heirs' Property Reports

Two Heirs’ Property products have recently been released. The 2021 Southern Region Heirs’ Property Collaborative Report and A Quick Guide to Addressing Heirs’ Property in Your Community can be found on the Heirs’ Property landing page.

A curriculum is being developed for community professionals and will be coming soon. If you would like to be added to the Heirs’ Property listserv and learn more, email Russ Garner at russ.garner@msstate.edu.

Delta Regional Forum: June 23-24, 2022

The annual Delta Regional Forum engages community and regional development practitioners and scholars working in and with partners in the multistate Delta region to learn from each other in pursuit of population health and wellbeing, economic renewal, and resilience. Held at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the conference includes presentations, panels, workshops, and poster sessions. Diverse presentations are welcome. Abstracts are due May 12, and the event will take place June 23-24, 2022. For more information on the Delta Regional Forum, please visit the landing page.

The Delta Regional Forum is organized by the Southern Rural Development Center in collaboration with the Delta Directions Consortium (DDC), an interdisciplinary network of individuals, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, and foundations that work together to create positive social change in the multi-state Mississippi Delta Region.

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: Using Deliberative Dialogue to Address Florida Community Challenges

Citizens across the nation feel increasingly removed from our system of governance. Even at the local level, they may wish to be engaged, but may not feel there is an appropriate venue that matches the time and resources they can dedicate to helping to resolve local issues. Compounding this challenge, members of some groups are historically underserved by government programs. In addition, people often believe they do not have enough information to offer a knowledgeable opinion about what should be done to improve their community. To begin to address these fractures in democratic governance, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and the University of Florida partnered to develop the Community Voices, Informed Choices (CIVIC) program. CIVIC prepares Extension faculty to help communities address challenging community issues. It complements other Extension programs by creating a platform for community members to learn about and discuss community issues that they care about but cannot solve as individuals.

More on this article can be found in the April 2022 issue of Around the South

EMPLOYEE HIGHLIGHT: Trevor Hylton, Florida A&M University

Trevor Hylton is the Urban Agriculture Agent for Leon County Florida with expertise in fruit and vegetable production. Trevor has single-handedly transitioned Urban Agriculture into a Community Economic Development program focused on community gardens and schools, small farmers, and back-yard gardeners. Sustainability and environmental protection strategies with intuitive techniques are critical elements of his work.

Trevor has worked with Florida A&M University Extension for 22 years and holds a courtesy appointment with University of Florida’s Extension program housed in the Leon County Extension Office. Trevor developed a model greenhouse awarded for its affordability featured in Hobby Greenhouse Magazine. Trevor’s expertise has resulted in 10 international assignments, notably in South Africa, India, Guyana, and Haiti.

Trevor is a recipient of many awards, principally from the Extension Professional Associations of Florida-UF/IFAS. Additionally, Trevor is referred to as the Citrus Expert throughout North Florida. Trevor is a native of Jamaica, received his B.S. in Agri-Business (1986) and MBA from Florida State University (1993). In his free time, Trevor enjoys gardening and is known to “grow just about anything”, sports, and basks in being an all-around family guy. He is married to his college sweetheart Julia Hylton for 42 years. Julia’s career path has led her to the area of administration in the public and private sector. They are the proud parents of three girls and four grandkids.

 

LAUNCH ISSUE

 

March 2022 Main Topics

Invitation to Help Identify Regional and National Investments for Rural Recovery and Development

The four Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) are leading an effort to identify the issues diverse rural stakeholders see as top priorities for rural recovery and development. The RRDC's invite research and Extension Directors and Administrators and their community partners to participate in both a Regional Session (broad local context) and National Topic (issues of national importance) Sessions.
Please (1) register here to participate and (2) share the invitation to participate with field Agents/Educators and community-based partners engaged in economic, workforce, and community development activities in rural and coastal areas and small towns. These 90-minute, free sessions will run from March 22 through April 26, 2022.
After registering, visit the recently launched a Data Dashboard to explore outcomes from the national stakeholder survey that drove topics for the Listening Sessions.

Read the Full Report Here

 

Recently Published: Rural Population Health and Aging: Introduction to the Special Issue

The Journal of Rural Social Sciences, the official peer-reviewed publication of the Southern Rural Sociological Association, has published a special issue on rural aging.
The collection of four articles and an introduction/commentary essay highlight innovative research to inform education, outreach/Extension, and policy. The special issue was produced in collaboration with the Interdisciplinary Network on Rural Population Health and Aging (INRPHA) with guest editors from The Pennsylvania State University, Syracuse University, University of Colorado Boulder, and the Southern Rural Development Center.

Read the Special Issue Here

 

SRDC and 1890 Partners Receive AFRI Rural and Economic Development Grant Funding for Bridging the Digital Divide in Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Communities in the South Project

Vital to Rural Economic Development (AFRI's Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities priority) is equitable digital access. Digital equity means all individuals have digital (internet) capacity needed for full participation in our society and economy. Digital equity is essential for economic viability and quality of life.
This project's goal is to identify and address digital equity challenges facing socio-economically disadvantaged (SED) communities in the Southern Region. Through research, the project will identify unique challenges facing SED communities along with the capacity of the 1890 Extension Service to respond. Extension will develop and pilot SED-responsive approaches to building digital capacity in partnership with 1890 Extension.
SRDC’s Rachel Welborn and Dr. John Green are pleased to be partnering with Dorothy Brandon, Alabama A&M University; Travella Free, Kentucky State University; Roberto Gallardo, Purdue University; Sanjun Gu, North Carolina A&T State University; Jimmy Henry, Prairie View A&M University; and Terrence Wolfork, Fort Valley A&M University.

 

Regional Spotlight: Virginia Cooperative Extension Innovates to Foster Resiliency in the Community Leaders in Challenging Times

The circumstances and needs of the last two years have pulled on leaders in unprecedented ways. The demands to pivot quickly, make decisions and manage amidst uncertainty and ongoing changes, and disruptions in systems and routines have been straining as a leader, along with, being able to communicate, encourage and support those they are charged. Often peer networks that may exist in other ranks provide a means of social support, but leaders rarely have the chance to “not be in the leadership role” and to receive support. In response, Virginia Cooperative Extension launched a 6-week, “Building Resilience” virtual program and engaged a cohort-model of leaders representing a wide range of professionals in the fields of: public schools, community colleges, county governments, center for sexual assault survivors, human resources, social services, state department of corrections, mental health, and several areas of VCE and NC Cooperative Extension (FCS, FNP, 4-H, and Master Food Volunteers). With a mental health services provider from Virginia Department of Behavioral Health (Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services) serving as the expert presenter and co-facilitator, participants learned skills and built relationships throughout six weekly sessions. Each session consisted of 30 minutes of content, viewed asynchronously, and a one-hour facilitated discussion on the specific topic, such as Effective Communication in Challenging Times, Decision-Making, and Self-Care While Helping Others.
Two distinct cohorts of 25 leaders have completed a 6-week series. Comments throughout the series and post-evaluations revealed that their participation served as a means of professional development to positively impact their workspaces. One leader noted, “I’ve taken for granted how much my staff feels I appreciate them; I have had to make more intentional efforts now remotely – not only do I need to be resilient, but I need to build that in my staff.” Another remarked,“I have already started doing quick individual check-ins with my team based on what we discuss here. I know these sessions have helped me be able to empathize and lead in the area of support for my team.”

Click Here to Read the Full Article

 

LAUNCH ISSUE

 

February 2022 Main Topics

SRDC and 1890 Partners Receive AFRI Rural and Economic Development Grant Funding for Bridging the Digital Divide in Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Communities in the South Project

Vital to Rural Economic Development (AFRI's Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities priority) is equitable digital access. Digital equity means all individuals have digital (internet) capacity needed for full participation in our society and economy. Digital equity is essential for economic viability and quality of life. This project's goal is to identify and address digital equity challenges facing socio-economically disadvantaged (SED) communities in the Southern Region. Through research, the project will identify unique challenges facing SED communities along with the capacity of the 1890 Extension Service to respond. Extension will develop and pilot SED-responsive approaches to building digital capacity in partnership with 1890 Extension.

SRDC’s Rachel Welborn and Dr. John Green are pleased to be partnering with Dorothy Brandon, Alabama A&M University; Travella Free, Kentucky State University; Roberto Gallardo, Purdue University; Sanjun Gu, North Carolina A&T State University; Jimmy Henry, Prairie View A&M University; and Terrence Wolfork, Fort Valley A&M University.

 

Recently Published: Rural Population Health and Aging: Introduction to the Special Issue

The Journal of Rural Social Sciences, the official peer-reviewed publication of the Southern Rural Sociological Association, has published a special issue on rural aging. The collection of four articles and an introduction/commentary essay highlight innovative research to inform education, outreach/Extension, and policy. The special issue was produced in collaboration with the Interdisciplinary Network on Rural Population Health and Aging (INRPHA) with guest editors from The Pennsylvania State University, Syracuse University, University of Colorado Boulder, and the Southern Rural Development Center.

Read the Special Issue Here

 

Special Issue: Online Journal of Rural and Urban Research

Connecting community and regional development topics that cut across the rural-urban continuum, John J. Green co-authored an article with several colleagues focused on the connections between population change and the capacity to address public water system needs. Previously presented at the virtual conference on the Jackson Water Crisis, this study appears in a special issue of the Online Journal of Rural and Urban Research.

Read the Special Issue Here

 

Regional Spotlight: University of Tennessee Initiative Aims to Improve Transportation and Digital Equity

A new National Science Foundation-backed initiative led by the University of Tennessee (UT) plans to provide a solution to transportation and digital disparities in underrepresented populations. This project is a collaborative effort between Knoxville Community Development Corporation, United Way of Greater Knoxville and University of Tennessee that addresses racial, ethnic and wealth inequality that were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The capacity for communities to use intelligent systems to bridge spatial and technical mismatches in the built environment and expand equitable access to resources is predicated on the ability to coordinate data systems efficiently and share information securely and easily. This project engages the community at the front-end, ensures a broader group of stakeholders is invested, and considers multiple perspectives in the development, deployment, and scaling up of any prototype. Replicated across other communities, this will lead to development of more relevant intelligent systems and successful uptake among communities. Over time, this will lead to greater technical capacity across communities which they can leverage emerging transportation data to make smarter, more resilient, and adaptable transportation and communications infrastructure-planning decisions.
This project is led by UT Tickle College of Engineering Associate Professor Micah Beck. Other team members at UT are UT Institute of Agriculture Assistant Professor Sreedhar Upendram, College of Social Work Associate Professor Courtney Cronley, Tickle College of Engineering Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs Ozlem Kilic, and Center for Transportation Research Interim Director Jerry Everett.

 

LAUNCH ISSUE

 

January 2022 Main Topics

Regional Rural Development Centers kick off year-long 50th anniversary celebration with recognition from Extension Committee on Organization and Policy and Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Rural Development Act. Among its many outcomes, the Act led to the creation of the nation’s four Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs). To help kick-off the year-long celebration, the RRDCs were joined by two key partner organizations, who each took actions formally recognizing the Centers’ significant contributions over the past 50 years and anticipating their leadership role in the continued vibrancy of rural America. The Board on Agriculture Assembly (BAA) Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) and Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy (ESCOP), which provide leadership and governance to the Cooperative Extension System and the State Agricultural Experiment Stations, respectively, each voted on the recognition at recent meetings.

Hear more from ECOP and ESCOP’s leadership and help us celebrate!

The Centers will be hosting additional programs throughout the year to highlight the successes and impacts of their first 50 years of service to Rural America, and to prepare for the emerging opportunities and challenges of the future.

Learn more about the Regional Rural Development Centers at: https://rrdc.usu.edu/.

 

Listening Sessions Report: Investing in Rural Recovery

The nation’s four Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) released Investing in Rural Recovery: Findings from a Rapid Assessment of Stakeholder Priorities for Rural Development from a national survey.

The survey, conducted in the fall of 2021, is part of an ongoing Listening Session Initiative aimed to identify key priorities, capacities, expansion, and valued programming that resulted in the eight critical topic areas for rural communities. This initial report marks the close of the first stage in the consultative feedback process.
The second phase, in March and April of 2022, will provide a basis for a series of facilitated dialogues.

Read the Full Report

 

Regional Spotlight: Arts Extension at University of Kentucky makes its MARK with arts-in-health curriculum, Mind.Art.Recovery.KY

Managing one’s personal health and wellness was difficult enough for the average person in 2021. But for those struggling with Substance Use Disorder (SUD), challenges to well-being were even more pronounced, and the stakes much higher. A pandemic, coupled with a worsening epidemic of opioid and substance misuse has challenged communities to meet the health needs of its people in new and creative ways.

Rising to this challenge, the Cooperative Extension at University of Kentucky (UK), with its broad reach statewide and with funding from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), has found success in integrating the arts into existing SUD recovery and prevention efforts for increased holistic wellness benefits in the state. These results add to growing evidence that, for some, creativity could be key in unlocking a path to recovery.

Through a partnership between Arts Extension, Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK), Family and Consumer Sciences Extension (FCS) and 4-H Youth Development, a new six-unit curriculum of arts-in-health classes was envisioned and implemented.
Partnering extension agents reported interactions with new clientele and groups not previously engaged, confidence in delivering new artistic programming, and an increased understanding of how the arts can contribute to wellness in individuals recovering from SUD.

These early results indicate that an expressive arts-in-health curriculum can provide substantial benefit for many in recovery and equip communities with an accessible platform for wellness engagement. The next phase of this program will train Extension Agents, recovery center staff, and community health coalitions across Kentucky to implement this program in their own communities.


Click Here to Read Full Article

 

LAUNCH ISSUE

 

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