Many of us in Michigan State University Extension end up getting called by a reporter at one time or another who has some questions about something we do or that our programs address. Usually, the calls have to do with some information of interest to the public, and the county Extension office gets identified as a source of answers on many different topics. And usually we reinforce their perceptions about us by giving answers to questions that they thought would be difficult to answer.
Well, this week I had a call from a State News reporter who was doing a story on some workshops and webinars that the Farm Management Team put on last week to inform farmers about risk management issues related to the very late planting season for many crop farmers. Dennis Stein, Extension educator in the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute, and David Schweikhardt, professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, are both quoted in the story and had a hand in the presentations.
I had no role in the workshops. So why did the reporter call me? Because he wanted to ask me a basic question for the article: “Why do you present these workshops for farmers?” Yep, he wanted to know why MSU Extension provides workshops for farmers, in this case, about risk management issues. And the story headline in the State News proclaimed a profound statement: MSU Extension aids Michigan farmers. I’m sure glad we got that straight. The reporter seemed particularly surprised that it was offered as a webinar and wondered if we had ever provided any sessions for farmers on the Internet previously. I couldn’t help but chuckle about the question, but at the same time, at least we have one more MSU student better informed about the role of MSU Extension. And perhaps a few other readers learned a bit more about us as well. Anyway, kudos go out to the Farm Management Team for picking up on an urgent need for information and delivering on it in a very short time frame. That’s a great example of what we hope to achieve through our redesign.