The Cavalier County Extension Service hosted an advisory council meeting for the first time in 25 years on the morning of December 1.
By Melissa Anderson
The purpose of the meeting was to gain input from members of the Cavalier County community on areas that they would like to see the extension service focus their efforts.
Extension agents, Macine Lukach and Anitha Chirumamilla, invited 22 people with various backgrounds, areas of interest, expertise, ages and, most importantly, representative of the Cavalier County community. Of those 22, 17 individuals attended ranging in age from late 20s to early 70s and represented clergy, education, business, agriculture, medical, media, and families both young and old.
“Representation included key areas in which Extension works with or for,” Lukach said.
The session started at 9:30 a.m. and went until 11 a.m. with many of those present staying well after the scheduled end time to continue discussion of the topics put forward.
“We were very satisfied with the participation and involvement in the discussion,” Lukach said.
Lukach and Chirumamilla started the session by first addressing those gathered with what the extension service is and its intent. They then covered what they were doing in Cavalier County. From there they split everyone into three focus groups to allow for discussion of four topics and areas that the focus groups felt needed more attention.
“To determine what will help people enhance their lives and their communities, we rely on input and observations, and that’s where the participants came in,” Lukach said, ”They identified needs and issues that can be addressed through appropriate educational Extension programs.”
The four areas that the groups were asked to discuss included: Agriculture, Family and Consumer Sciences, 4-H Youth Development, and Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“The entire process moved very quickly, and those present put forward many ideas that were then prioritized into issues the group, as a whole, felt were most important,” Chirumamilla stated.
Lukach and Chirumamilla put together all of the input that was given at the advisory council meeting. The following is the compiled suggestions and recommendations that came from the session.
4-H Youth Development
• The advisory council would like to see efforts put towards parent leadership and involvement with both adult and youth. Those gathered also felt that the extension service should create more awareness about 4-H and its benefits. Finally, the group felt that youth should have more information and training in adult survival skills, such as cooking, cleaning, banking, etc.
Family and Consumer Sciences
• The group felt that healthy living and mental health should be a concerted effort by the extension service. The council also recommended that the extension service continue to work on youth involvement with leadership and community involvement.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
• Ag business retention, long-term farming, educating and retaining youth in agriculture were high on the list of ideas for the extension service to explore. Many of those gathered also felt that the extension service could assist with putting out more information on GMOs to the general public.
“Several great issues were raised, but time was a constraint,” Lukach said, “Additional time would have been nice to discuss the issues and ways to accomplish them. Issues/concerns will need to be broken into smaller steps and addressed one or two at a time.”
Following the meeting and review of the issues and concerns that were raised, Lukach already had a few ideas on how she could address them including:
• Working with young families in the areas of parenting and healthy living. Cavalier County is having a baby boom, and kids don’t come with instruction books so would like to help parents add tools to their parenting toolbox.
• Provide a Meals in Minutes program. This would focus on healthy eating, importance of family meals and the impact that has on families, and budgeting (cost savings).
• Promote 4-H. Encourage parent and youth involvement, opportunities for youth to grow in confidence and leadership and communication skills.
Chirumamilla also had ideas on how to address areas of concerns that were raised in the field of agriculture and natural resources.
“The primary concerns in ag and natural resources put together by the group are: better education on land and water conservation; timely information about agricultural practices; and Information on safe farm operation and chemical usage,” Chirumamilla said, “My program efforts will be directed to address these concerns in the future.”
By partnering with individuals, agencies and organizations, Lukach and Chirumamilla find benefits for all as the groups work together for the betterment of Cavalier County citizens.
“We all want to enhance the lives of our residents of all ages,” Lukach said.
The NDSU Extension Service’s purpose is to create learning partnerships that help adults and youth enhance their lives and communities. The advisory council is one such way the extension service in Cavalier County can do just that, and following the success of this first meeting, Lukach and Chirumamilla know this is one resource that will be highly beneficial to their work.
“We plan to meet twice a year depending on the need,” Lukach said, “If an issue or concern arises, we may call the group together an additional time.”
NDSU Extension has a wealth of knowledge but finding ways to reach out with it is a challenge. Cavalier County Extension Service is open to ideas and suggestions of ways to get the research-based information into the hands of those who need it.
“We thank the attendees for their valuable suggestions and comments,” Lukach and Chirumamilla stated.
If someone is interested, please contact Macine or Anitha at the Cavalier County Extension office, 701-256-2560, and “we would be happy to visit with them and hear their concerns.”