Essex Junction, Vermont - January 25, 2012
The University of Vermont's Extension program is getting ready to turn 100.
"The model has changed. I think the one thing that has remained constant about extension over the last 100 years is that we have changed," said Kurt Reichelt of the UVM Extension.
The program got off the ground in 1913 to help the state's farmers gain access to the research and resources they needed to grow their businesses.
It's kicking off the yearlong celebration to the major milestone at this year's Vermont Farm Show.
"I think a lot of people remember extension for how we used to be, where we had a county agent who would visit a certain number of farms every week," Reichelt said.
Today, the Extension team is still focused on its key goals.
"We focus right now on three core areas, that includes food systems, youth and families, and community and economic development," Reichelt explained.
But it's reaching the state's farmers in new ways.
"We are not doing those one-on-one farm visits. You are more likely to find us conducting a webinar as you would a farm visit," Reichelt said.
The types of farmers Extension is helping is also evolving. John Williamson of State Line Hill Farm makes fuel from sunflowers and other crops.
"It provided us with a lot of information and a lot of opportunities over the years. It really helped us a lot when we started our biofuel business on our farm," Williamson said.
UVM student and dairy farmer John Franklin says the program has found success by keeping things simple.
"The farmers ask Extension people questions and Extension has the answers because they are there," Franklin said.
UVM Extension says while the work it does may continue to evolve, it's here for the long haul with Vermont's farmers in mind.
"We are still here, you can still count on us, we're here in every county in the state to provide practical research-based education," Reichelt said.
"I hope they keep doing what they are doing because they are doing a great thing," Franklin said.
A great thing that's been finding success in the fields of Vermont's for nearly 10 decades.
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