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Extension Courses Are A Mississippi Resource
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- When Mississippians need information, the Extension Service is ready with a variety of tools to get the facts into their hands.
When personal knowledge falls short, they can turn to the Mississippi State University Extension Service. Extension is the arm of the state's land-grant institution responsible for taking the knowledge of the university to the people of the state. It does this through agents in each county, short courses, field days, demonstrations, workshops and Internet resources.
Michael Ouart, Extension program leader for agriculture and natural resources, said short courses are a classic example of the land-grant serving the needs of the population.
"These require us to be focused and proactive as we identify a need, prepare a program that addresses that need, and deliver and evaluate it," Ouart said. "If we don't focus our efforts and get ahead of issues, our programming will be overly reactive."
An example of addressing needs before they become problems is the greenhouse tomato short course offered each spring by the MSU Extension Service. Rick Snyder, Extension vegetable specialist working at the Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station in Crystal Springs, said the two-day intensive training is designed for people growing greenhouse tomatoes commercially and those who want to get into the business.
"There's hardly any training on greenhouse tomatoes in the whole country," Snyder said. "When growers find out about it, they come."
This year's short course drew about 120 participants from 22 states and four countries.
"I probably get about half the attendance from people who are looking at it as a prospective business to get into, and the other half is people who are new at it and know they have a lot to learn, so they come as a good investment of their time to listen and ask questions," Snyder said.
This workshop offers classroom instruction in insect and disease problems, fertilization, budgets, record keeping, what it costs to start and run a commercial greenhouse, and more.
The short course also offers tours so participants can see commercial facilities in action. This year, the group toured the state's largest commercial grower facility, a small commercial greenhouse for sale and the Crystal Springs Truck Crops Experiment Station greenhouses. Here participants could see an ideal greenhouse in operation and could look at the structure of the greenhouse and the plants growing inside.
With agents in every county, the Extension Service can provide local programming to residents, but it also has the high- tech resources to offer distance education to remote sites.
"We've had producers tell us they will drive across county lines for quality programming, but we also know there are other kinds of educational activities and programs that lend themselves better to local events," Ouart said. "The personal contact will always be important."