The 2019 Legislative session is in full swing with bills and budgets being reviewed and recommendations given daily. The North Dakota State University Extension program, a familiar service across the state, is putting forward additional funding requests to the legislature this year to expand and improve the services they already offer.
By Melissa Anderson
What does the Extension service already offer? A lot actually, and the plan to improve and expand those services will lead to a better North Dakota. Within Cavalier County there are two extension agents, 26-year veteran Family and Community Wellness Agent Macine Lukach and highly qualified Ag Agent Anitha Chirumamilla.
“NDSU Extension is structured to respond to locally identified needs through extension agents who have strong relationships in their communities. Extension agents are supported by specialists who have the expertise to develop science-based recommendations and training programs in agriculture and natural resources, family and community wellness, and 4-H youth development,” NDSU Extension states in a release.
The foundation of extension relies on strong governmental support at the county, state, and federal level. Understanding how extension works to meet the needs of the public is vital for government representatives at every level, from the county commissioner to the state and federal legislators, to continue to support extension.
Lukach’s work as the family and community wellness agent involves enhancing “the lives of individuals, families and producers through educational experiences and encouraging leadership and service to the community.” She also works extensively with the 4-H Youth Development program.
“4-H provides hands-on, real-life experiences through projects, activities and events,” Lukach shared.
Because Lukach covers so many different aspects that are related within the extension service her responsibilities are taken very seriously. When she first started, Lukach was only working 2 days a week and was mainly responsible for 4-H and Homemakers. As times changed and progressed the needs changed.
“I am always on the lookout for what the needs are of Cavalier County residents and what NDSU Extension has to offer to help. We have so many awesome programs available to share with Cavalier County residents, but my time is limited. I need to prioritize what I can do, as I am 65% so can’t do everything I would love to do,” Lukach said.
Program efforts that Lukach handles have changed considerably over her career. Extension programming has expanded from just the Homemakers Club programs to a much broader group – from aging and wellness: food and nutrition; children, parents and families; to personal and family finance; and leadership development.
“We are more in tune with the needs and address those as needed,” Lukach stated. “We focus on providing transformational education through building trusted relationships with people and providing education they use to improve their operations or help their families or towns.”
Balancing her time, which is limited, is the biggest hurdle that Lukach deals with. Extension’s vast list of programs that are available make Lukach have to stay in touch and be aware of what is going on in the county. She is able to focus on the most relevant programs by visiting with the schools, medical community, seniors, Cavalier County residents and also by seeking input from the Cavalier County Advisory Council.
“I value my partnerships and collaborations and by working together we can be more effective and efficient,” Lukach said.
The opportunities that are available keep Lukach on her toes as she never stops learning about and how to implement programs. Lukach explained that there are always “updates and developments to keep on top of; new programs to be trained in and to share with others; new information provided.” She keeps up-to-date by attending conferences, workshops, and webinars.
Technology has played a large part in how the NDSU Extension reaches and teaches communities. NDSU Extension has a wealth of reliable, science-based information available 24-7. The efforts put forward to adapt to the more technological world are on-going and the extension service has put in a one-time funding request of $345,000 to the state Legistlature during this session to help enhance Extension’s web presence through the use of apps, online education, and social media.
“Through Internet and social media we are better able to market our programs. Connecting is so much easier through email,” Lukach said.
Extension has a long history within the state of North Dakota and Cavalier County. While Lukach assists more with the general public, Anitha Chirumamilla is the person that the area agricultural industry depends on for information from NDSU.
“Agriculture research is critical to today’s agriculture, and NDSU Extension’s role is to make sure research results are readily available to producers, allied industry, and other constituents,” NDSU Extension said in a release.
Chirumamilla explained that her duties are to provide educational programs addressing the need-based issues pertaining to the disciplines of agriculture and natural resources to the growers and communities in Cavalier County. She also assists Lukach with providing leadership, support, and program coordination for 4-H youth development programs.
“I help to enhance agriculture leadership and programming through cooperation and collaboration with various local, county and state agencies, organizations and businesses,” Chirumamilla explained.
One aspect of Chirumamilla education that gives her a leg up, in some respects, to her position is that she is a specialist in entomology. With her training, she is better able to assist area growers with insect and pest control. She has organized and presented at pesticide applicator trainings for producers to learn how best to do just that.
“Now, however, my job needs me to be a ‘jack of all trades’. I am on a continuous learning curve,” Chirumamilla shared.
Extension is the front door to the land-grant university system,of which NDSU is part of. These universities conduct unbiased, science-based research that is readily available to all citizens. Chirumamilla provides this to the residents of Cavalier County through research-based programs assisting producers, ranchers, consultants and community by educating them about the general insect, disease and weed problems; agronomic practices; soil health and gardening.
“In Cavalier County, the biggest things [I present on] are herbicide resistant weeds, clubroot in canola, scab in wheat, flea beetles, pyrethroid resistant soybean aphids, saline and high sodium and magnesium soils and soil erosion,” Chirumamilla said.
With such a wide range of topics within agriculture that she has to know about in order to serve the county, Chirumamilla is constantly challenged with new questions.
“I feel so accomplished when I can find answers that are unbiased and supported by research. Also, the best part is working with the people of Cavalier County who are hardworking, knowledgeable and dynamic in every aspect,” Chirumamilla shared.
As both Lukach and Chirumamilla look ahead, their goals are similar as to what they can do to improve Cavalier County and help its residents. Lukach will continue working to expand the program that she helped create, Building Tomorrow’s Leaders, to more schools across the state. She will also offer Lead Local, a training for elected and appointed leaders serving on boards, councils and committees in Langdon and continue to offer Powerful Tools for Caregivers and Stepping On. Another program Lukach is going to offer is On the Move Cooking School.
Chirumamilla’s future goals are to provide quality education that would limit the spread of clubroot in canola crops, prevent the entry of Palmer Amaranth into the county ecosystem, and create awareness on pesticide resistance and soil health.
NDSU Extension specialists provide valuable leadership for complex issues and training for extension agents, professionals in the business sector, and others. Maintaining a strong blend of extension agents and specialists is essential to provide the educational experiences North Dakotans want and use. The Cavalier County NDSU Extension agents will continue to address the needs of Cavalier County residents.