Beet Food Waste: Turnip at the Farmers’ Market

Did you know that more than 38 million tons of food waste was generated in the U.S. in 2014? To help address this issue, OSU Extension Cuyahoga County teamed up with two local partners this past summer to launch a Food Waste, Recovery, & Education pilot program at the Tremont Farmers’ Market. OSUE Cuyahoga County, Rust Belt Riders, and Stone Soup Cleveland piloted a community composting program, modeling the efforts of cities such as Washington, .D.C. and New York City. The pilot program aimed to help reduce food waste and divert scraps from landfills while providing education about food insecurity and food recovery systems.

So, how did it work?

The partners spent 4 weeks at the farmers’ market doing outreach and promotion before beginning 8 weeks of scrap collection. The pilot offered free sunflower planting for children (and adults!) with compost from Rust Belt Riders to help spark community engagement and begin dialogue about food waste in the county.

Residents who signed up for the free program 8 week were provided one-gallon containers with lids that they could take home and use to collect their compostable food scraps over the course of the week. Residents could bring their scraps to the farmers’ market to be weighed and recorded, helping them gauge their waste production and environmental impact. The containers were emptied into a larger bin that would be later delivered to Rust Belt Riders to be composted.

Over 30 community members actively participated in the Food Waste and Food Recovery pilot project at the Tremont Farmers’ Market. Over 8-weeks, residents were able to drop off their compostable food scraps and engage in food waste education. In just 8 weeks, over 750 pounds of food scraps were diverted from landfills. 88% if participants were surprised by how much food waste they were producing, and 94% of participants stated the program helped them become more conscious about the amount of food waste they produce.

While the program was designed to serve apartment dwellers, almost 30% of participants were homeowners with access to a yard who noted they did not know how to properly compost. Through this pilot, we learned that there may be a significant number of households in Cleveland who are not composting simply because they do not know how. Composting workshops have been set up to serve those participants and other homeowners who are interested.

As with any pilot project, you set out not really knowing what will happen and inevitably encounter a variety of challenges and valuable lessons. We were pleasantly surprised by the level of community engagement and support, but we did not consider any potential drawbacks such as odors. We quickly learned that we needed to ask program participants to place their containers in the fridge or freezer to slow decomposition and eliminate any unpleasant smells. A few very ripe containers caused some of our market neighbors to be a bit upset.

The pilot was well received by community members and market vendors, being seen as a valuable addition to the farmers’ market, but we did not have any next steps planned. As the pilot ended, program participants were anxious to know what they might do with their scraps. We had created a group of food waste conscious community members, but did not have a long-term solution for them. When we surveyed participants after the pilot ended, 41% said they would participate in fee-based residential compost services in the future. This finding sparked Rust Belt Riders to create a Community Supported Compost Program, where residents can pay for an annual membership that allows them to drop their scraps off at their facility to be composted at any time through the year.

The partners plan to host the program at the Tremont Farmers’ Market again next summer, extending the programming to be offered for a longer duration of 16-20 weeks!

What will you do to reduce your food waste? To learn more about food waste and food recovery systems, contact Amanda Osborne, County Extension Educator, Cuyahoga County & Western Reserve EERA.

Party without the Paper or Plastic

The holidays are just around the corner and I am so excited!!!!! I love the holidays, and no matter which ones you celebrate in November and December, they all involve spending time eating the most delicious food with friends and family. They often involve some gift giving too.

Despite the feel-good atmosphere and carefree nature of the holidays, I am always drawn to how much garbage we create during this time. Information from the California Department of Conservation/Division of Recycling states that we generate 25% more trash during this time, creating 7 million pounds of waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Large parties often lead to disposable cutlery being used to save time with kitchen cleanup. Or the giving of gifts leads to bags of wrapping paper being thrown away. So when you are spreading cheer over the next couple of months, remember the planet and give her a gift, too. The gift of less garbage.

Are you hosting one of the holiday meals?

Last year was my first time hosting my family for Thanksgiving in my home and I was stressed. But I made it a priority to reduce the amount of garbage our meal created by recycling cans and boxes from the food purchased, using only reusable glassware, plate ware, cutlery, and napkins. I also made to-go meals for everyone in reusable plastic Tupperware. There was so little waste generated, it made the day even more special.

Have a friend who loves games? Wrap their gift with the crossword sections of the newspaper. Photo credit: Damien Nelson.

Are you giving gifts?

Giving gifts has become the norm for many of the holidays we celebrate in December. Think about what material you use to wrap or package the gifts. I love to use newspaper or magazines as my gift wrap. The material is free, and save you the trouble of purchasing wrapping paper; a product which takes many resources such as trees and fossil fuels to create. You can also gift items in reusable bags or cute baskets, completely avoiding the need to wrap anything.

Homemade extracts and flavored oils are super popular right now. They would be a great gift for the chef in your life. Photo credit: HGTV.

Are you doing all of your shopping online?

Do you have to do all of your shopping online? Think of all the material that is required to ship the item to your house. Instead make homemade gifts. One year I decided to make candles for family and friends. I used glass jars I had collected over the year and made these super cute gifts that people loved. I did make the mistake of putting pine cones in the candles, which turned out to be a really bad idea. (Let’s just say pine cones make great fuel!)

Are you sending gifts through the mail?

My mom would always make me the best gift boxes when I was in college. I would get them around holidays or near big exams. If there was too much space left in the box, instead of using plastic wrap or plastic packing peanuts, she would put a fluffy pair of socks or a bag of popcorn instead. I was able to use the items meant to stuff the package instead of throwing them away.

I hope some of my personal experiences have given you some new ideas about how to reduce the amount of waste you produce during the holiday season. And remember, when you go to the store to shop for food or gifts, bring those reusable bags!

Endnotes:

 

Jill Bartolotta is an Extension Educator for the Ohio Sea Grant College Program.

Cleveland’s Greatest Gift

What comes to mind when you think of Cleveland, Ohio? Perhaps you know that it’s home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the 2016 NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Maybe you’re familiar with the city’s rich legacy of business development, such as John D. Rockefeller’s establishment of Standard Oil in Cleveland in 1870. While the cultural and business accomplishments of this beautiful Midwestern city are impressive, Cleveland is also the birthplace to what may be one of the greatest gifts to the civilized world – and it all began with an inspired idea.

Cleveland as seen from Cleveland Metroparks Whiskey Island

More than 100 years ago, Frederick H. Goff, a successful lawyer and banker, envisioned an organization that would focus on developing Cleveland’s community by pulling together and harnessing the resources – the wealth – of the city’s philanthropists. That idea grew into the world’s first community foundation: The Cleveland Foundation. Within five years, Goff’s strategic idea inspired other cities, such as Chicago, Boston and Minneapolis, to establish their own community foundations. But the first – in the world – was born in Cleveland!

Today the Cleveland Foundation serves not only Cleveland, but counties nearby as well. With nearly $2 billion in assets, the organization has touched millions of lives by providing funding and by partnering with other organizations to strengthen the region’s schools and neighborhoods, health and wellness activities, cultural endeavors, and economic development.

Merwin’s Wharf in the Flats – Owned and operated by Cleveland Metroparks

One of the recipients of the many grants and scholarships offered through the foundation is the Cleveland Metroparks. This expansive area encompassing more than 23,000 acres includes 300 miles of trails, eight golf courses, eight lakefront parks, and the Cleveland Zoo. The Metroparks offers a myriad of outdoor activities focusing on education, recreation, conservation and sustainability – all within and surrounding this bustling, revitalized city. Perched on the southern shore of Lake Erie, the Metroparks provide urban residents and visitors opportunities for hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing (and ice fishing – Cleveland is a northern city, after all), dining, sledding, horseback riding, paddle boarding, swimming, and much more. This park system is funded by a variety of donations and grants, and presents tangible evidence of Frederick Goff’s idea to harness the wealth of the community for the benefit of all.

Cleveland Metroparks – Edgewater Park

Today, community foundations find ways to tap into the generosity of individuals from all economic levels. If it’s not in your budget to donate money to a charity of your choice, think about offering your time or expertise to help with their community outreach efforts. Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” What an incredible gift Frederick Goff has given to the world – the idea that lying deep within the seed of generosity we plant today is the promise of a better tomorrow.

To learn more about OSU Extension’s educational programs focused on community development, visit go.osu.edu/seekexcellence.

 

Becky Nesbitt is an Assistant Professor and Extension Educator in Community Development with OSU Extension.

Economic Gardening: Changing Community Culture to Grow Entrepreneurs

Who among us doesn’t want to live, work and play in a vibrant community? In addition to supporting local entrepreneurs, each of us can help to cultivate community vitality by understanding the larger strategies designed to assist small businesses to grow and thrive. Programs that help to develop business plans, obtain financing and market and manage enterprises are frequently included in a community’s economic “tool box.” Universities, Small Business Development Centers and local Chambers of Commerce often provide direct assistance that can range from one-on-one consultation to classroom instruction and group workshops.

Pioneered in Littleton, Colorado in 1987, and based on David Birch’s research at MIT, the concept of “Economic Gardening” recognizes that small businesses create most of the new jobs in local economies. While providing skill training for individual entrepreneurs is a very important component of economic gardening, it is only part of the picture. If entrepreneurs are to have their best chance to grow and thrive, being part of a community culture that understands, values and supports entrepreneurship is also important.

Communities are sometimes unaware of the depth and breadth of the local entrepreneur base and its contribution to their overall economy. They might not understand the support the community can provide and the importance of a supportive culture. “Culture is a mindset built on commonly held and shared beliefs …about starting, owning encouraging and supporting our own companies and entrepreneurs. It is a way of thinking that drives a group to act.” (EDA University Center/Center of Northern Iowa) The actions of local leaders and residents demonstrating their support for entrepreneurship are at the core of this mindset.

There are various dimensions to entrepreneur friendly communities and many players need to contribute toward its creation. It is not just the responsibility of local leaders or economic developers. Cultural change is broad in its scope and goes beyond positional leadership to less formal social networks embedded in the community. With that said, local leaders – private and public – can be “change masters” by championing initiatives and attitudes that support entrepreneurs. The following are some examples. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but to describe supportive services that emerge from a community mindset that nurtures entrepreneurs:

  1. Risk tolerance: At the most basic level, entrepreneurial communities embrace a mindset that tolerates risk and does not see trying and failing at an enterprise as a character flaw. It supports and encourages innovators who are willing to try time and again before reaching success.
  2. Consumer support of local business: Supportive communities have a “buy local” initiative, encouraging residents to support and patronize their businesses and services first.
  3. Celebration of success: Economic development organizations such as the Chamber promote the successes of local entrepreneurs and small businesses. Start-ups and expansions are recognized and championed through media coverage.
  4. Commitment of Public Officials and Offices: Local elected and appointed officials set a tone of appreciation for business innovators. They take the lead in insuring that local governmental offices and agencies, often the first stop for entrepreneurial enterprises, cut through red tape, streamline approvals, and coordinate with each other, perhaps through a “one stop” center approach.
  5. Public and private financing alternatives: It is important to offer a variety of different financing avenues for entrepreneurs in recognition of their special need for start-up capital and a fast turn-around time for project implementation. Building partnerships between private and public financing sources to reduce/share risks and provide incentive financing, shows support for entrepreneurs.
  6. Networks: Entrepreneurs benefit greatly from opportunities to network with their peers. Facilitating the creation of an entrepreneur network which can then take on a life of its own provides a supportive and strategically beneficial environment.
  7. Supportive services and spaces: Incubators for start-ups and expansions help to reduce initial expenses for facilities and services. Maker spaces are community centers that provide access to tools, equipment and other technology needed to test and launch new products and ideas.
  8. Infrastructure: Entrepreneurs need access to markets and resources. Broadband Internet capacity is a critical component of an entrepreneurial friendly community.

In short, the challenge for communities is to create an environment that nurtures, appreciates and values entrepreneurs and their unique needs and contributions. An adaptation of a quote by Roger Blackwell, Professor Emeritus in Marketing at The Ohio State University, is as follows:

To create a community culture, mindset and initiatives that support entrepreneurship, and to realize the benefits and investment from this economic development approach, what does a community need to become?

The following resources provide additional information:

EDA University Center/University of Northern Iowa: eda.uni.edu/supportive-culture

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation: kauffman.org/what-we-do/resources/policy/economic-gardening

Myra Moss is an Associate Professor and Extension Educator (Heart of Ohio EERA).

Keeping Communities Safe through Education and Empowerment

OSU Extension goes beyond the walls to keep communities safe and restored citizens productive!

With most offender reentry programs, an ultimate goal is to reduce the recidivism rate. According to the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI), in the U.S. over 600,000 individuals are released from prisons and jails each year. It is estimated that over two-thirds are re-incarcerated within three years.

Franklin County has the third highest population of ex-offenders being released from incarceration in the state of Ohio. Equally important and cause for concern is the increasing number of individuals returning to neighborhoods and communities throughout the country.

Not surprisingly, re-entering society poses numerous financial challenges, from paying for housing, food, transportation, and health care to finding a job, establishing credit, and paying off debts. Indeed, much of re-entry success depends on one’s ability to manage money. Unfortunately, an overwhelming number of newly freed individuals aren’t well prepared to make smart money decisions on their own, especially if they have long been under the control of others, lack basic resources and financial skills!

One of the keys to successful reintegration of these individuals returning to neighborhoods and communities has been and will continue to be Financial Education, thereby helping them gain control of their finances and future! Towards this end, OSU Extension’s Community/Economic Development (CED) team has not only served on the Franklin County Reentry Task Force/ Employment and Education Subcommittee, but has also made monthly visits to Franklin County Correctional Center and the Ohio Department of Youth Services to teach Personal Finance to adult and youth offenders respectively.

OSU Extension strives to improve the quality of life among ALL central Ohio residents through research, service and training. To learn more about OSU Extension and how to make a difference in  your community, visit: franklin.osu.edu or contact Susan Colbert (colbert.22@osu.edu), Program Director for Expansion and Engagement, Franklin County and Heart of Ohio EERA.

Join, Get Involved, Enhance Your Network, Broaden Knowledge and Give Back . . .

As an OSU Extension professional, it is the time of year that we receive invitations to join or renew membership in professional organizations. I have been a member of one of those organizations, Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) for many years. For me, getting more involved in ESP meant that I was selected to present an IGNITE session at the 2016 National ESP meeting. This year my involvement in ESP included participating in the National Meeting as the Ohio ESP President Elect and an Ohio voting delegate.

The ESP National Meeting gave me numerous opportunities to enhance my network and broaden my knowledge. The event offered tours to learn about the local economy and special areas of interest as well as educational sessions for professional development. In addition to increasing my knowledge of local development and change, meeting new colleagues with similar interests from other states was a key benefit. From West Virginia to Maryland to California, the new professionals I have met provide a new and different perspective to my work. As new colleagues, we have maintained ties through social media and have even had fun participating in football tailgating.

This year, the ESP National Meeting initiated a mentoring program as a way for seasoned professionals to give back to the organization. Mentoring provided a means to share ideas and ask for advice. Other avenues for contributing to the profession include joining or leading a committee at the state, regional or national level. As over half of the participants at the ESP National Meeting were also serving as voting delegates for their states, giving back to the organization was clearly a priority for many of the attendees.

Whether you are looking to learn about current events and initiatives, network in a professional community or make the most of meeting new people, joining ESP is a step in accomplishing this.

Cindy Bond is an Assistant Professor and County Extension Educator in Guernsey County (Crossroads EERA).

Back for the Attack: The Lake Erie Algal Bloom

Photo credit: Toledo Blade, 2017

The Lake Erie algal bloom has often been described as mean, green and obscene. To make matters worse, if you’ve ever experienced an algal bloom in person, you would also know that it stinks… literally.

What gives? What is being done about this yearly outbreak in our Great Lake Erie? The Ohio Sea Grant College Program has been and continues to be one of the key leaders in research, education and outreach on this critical issue. This blog posting will discuss key research initiatives that Ohio Sea Grant is tackling head on with local, state, university and federal partners.

Background Information

Photo credit: Toledo Blade, 2017

A harmful algal bloom (HAB) is any large increased density of algae that is capable of producing toxins. In freshwater, such as Lake Erie, those algae tend to be cyanobacteria — more commonly known as blue-green algae — which grow excessively in warm water with a high phosphorus concentration.

Phosphorus enters the water from agriculture, suburban and urban sources. The likelihood of such runoff is strongly affected by climatic factors including drought, severe weather and temperature.

Much of the harmful algal bloom research seeks to understand both how phosphorus and other elements, such as nitrogen, affect algal blooms and how runoff can be reduced without negative impacts to farming and other industries. Other projects focus on the public health impacts of toxic algal blooms, ranging from drinking water issues to food contamination.

Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative

Photo credit: Toledo Blade, 2017

The Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative (HABRI), created in the aftermath of the 2014 Toledo water crisis, provides near-term solutions for the full suite of issues surrounding harmful algal blooms. Guided by the technical needs of state agencies at the front lines of the HABs crisis, Ohio universities are the engines for creating new knowledge, new technologies and new approaches to give us both short-term assistance and long-term solutions.

After the Toledo water crisis in August 2014, the Ohio Department of Higher Education (then the Ohio Board of Regents) allocated $2 million to Ohio universities for research to solve the harmful algal bloom problem in Lake Erie. The funding was matched by participating universities for a total of more than $4 million.

Led by representatives from The Ohio State University and The University of Toledo, and managed by Ohio Sea Grant, the initial efforts of the Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative (HABRI) entailed 18 projects involving researchers from seven Ohio universities and partners as far away as South Dakota and Japan.

The Lake Erie algal bloom research has been broken down into four major categories (please click each link for information on funded research efforts):

  1. Tracking Blooms from the Source
  2. Protecting Public Health
  3. Producing Safe Drinking Water and,
  4. Engaging Stakeholders

The HABRI has launched a new round of agency-directed research every year since 2015, with the first round of projects completed in spring 2017. The Ohio Department of Higher Education has funded all research, with matching funds contributed by participating universities. For the 2018 cohort, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) will provide matching funds for some of the research and monitoring activities undertaken as part of the statewide effort.

The initiative also provides invaluable training for Ohio students, from undergraduate to doctoral candidates, which distinguishes university research from other scientific institutions and gives taxpayers a double return on their investment.

Input from partners such as the OEPA, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Lake Erie Commission ensures that projects complement state agency efforts to protect Ohio’s fresh water and that results address known management needs to ensure sustainable water for future generations.

HABRI used Ohio Sea Grant’s proposal development system to streamline project proposals, project management and public engagement, capitalizing on Sea Grant’s strong reputation among various stakeholder groups including the research community.

For more information, please see Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative Year 2 Report and Executive Summary.

Source: Ohio Sea Grant College Program- Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative

Submitted by: Joe Lucente, Associate Professor, Community Development, OSU Extension and Ohio Sea Grant College Program

Strengthening teamwork and leadership: conference planning-style

When trying something new we’ve not done before, it doesn’t take us long to realize that proficiency requires a dedication to practice and in most cases a good bit of patience. And, you might say that Extension professionals work in teams all the time. It is not often, however, that we work together in national conference planning.

Logo photo courtesy of: ThisisCleveland.com and Larry E. Highbaugh, Jr.

CD professionals have been practicing teamwork and leadership skills around a singular focus since June 2014. That’s when the idea of hosting the annual conference for our professional association, the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (a.k.a. NACDEP), was first shared. After learning of our proposal’s success about 18 months later, even more opportunities to practice really kicked. For example, as a team, we have:

  • Participated in the past three NACDEP conferences like never before (i.e., ‘What does it take to put this on?’)
  • Encouraged colleagues to serve on the national NACDEP board (thank you, Nancy Bowen, treasurer; David Civittolo, president-elect; and Brian Raison, north central representative)
  • Served on a variety of prior NACDEP conference sub-committees
  • Worked together to identify our conference location (Cleveland) and venue (Renaissance Cleveland Hotel – Downtown)
  • Brainstormed and investigated the best things to experience in Cleveland

Exploring a potential conference MLW site: Edgewater Park

With Ohio JCEP’s support, a couple of weeks ago we were able to practice our teamwork and leadership skills in a face-to-face retreat at the conference venue in Cleveland. During this two-day retreat, we:

  • Investigated potential conference mobile learning workshop (MLW) ideas in small groups
  • Explored the conference hotel and surrounding areas
  • Continued our subcommittee work focused on sessions, speakers, sponsorship, publicity, hospitality, MLWs, etc.

This work required our best leadership and teamwork by subcommittee chairs and co-chairs, MLW investigation leaders, and situational leaders too. Even better, we were able to team up with members of the national NACDEP board in this work as they overlapped their annual face-to-face retreat with our conference planning retreat at the 2018 NACDEP Conference venue in Cleveland.

No doubt, there has been much to learn throughout this conference planning process. And when we consciously make the time for it, there is much to learn beyond the ins and outs of how to produce a top-rate NACDEP conference. Every day we have countless opportunities to actively and deliberately practice our skills necessary for working with others. Opportunities to strengthen our skills and build proficiency. The work that lies ahead will require our best teamwork and leadership.

Regardless of the task at hand or the challenge you face, how you go about practicing your skills is up to you.

Let’s ‘suit up!’

Greg Davis is a 2018 NACDEP Conference planning committee co-chair and Extension Assistant Director, Community Development.

Embracing the chaos

Change. In our constantly evolving society, it is impossible to escape it. We see it in constantly shifting political ideologies. We see it in our communities, schools, homes and businesses through technology advancing faster than we ever imagined. We see it within our personal relationships as we move across the lifespan and from one life phase to another. And, we hopefully see it within ourselves when we try to adopt a new habit.

But what happens when the changes are quite drastic, or even worse, could bring about unpredictable results? As a 21 year old college student, I’ve experienced a variety of large scale and small scale changes. For example, the political climate in the U.S. is quite different now than when I was born. On a more personal scale, I left behind a small rural community at 18 and moved to a city with more diversity than I’d encountered in my entire life time. And on an even smaller scale, I’ve seen relationships with friends from home and friends I’ve made here evolve—some got stronger, and some have faded a little.

Yet in spite of all of this change in the world and my life, I have not shied away from the unknown. Sure, there have been moments where I was unsure about what was around the corner. But, if I’ve learned anything in my time at Ohio State, it is this: It is so important to embrace the chaos that change can be. I’ve embraced chaos as president of my sorority, where our organization’s membership has doubled in size in less than 2 years (and is still growing). I’ve embraced chaos after informing my parents (who have lived in my hometown all their lives) that I was considering attending graduate school in another state. And, with aspirations for a career in Extension, I’ve embraced the organized chaos surrounding its efforts to figure out where we will take the organization in the coming years. It’s been organized chaos, but chaos nonetheless.

Through these experiences, I’ve realized that change is a natural part of our lives. Instead of fearing change, I’ve realized how freeing it can be to embrace it. For example, if, while leading my sorority, I’d held tightly to the status quo for fear of change, we’d still be stuck with a variety of outdated policies and procedures.

A little faith can help too. A little faith in the notion that trying something new is worth the effort, even if the results don’t go exactly as we might have anticipated. Although my parents were initially shocked at my idea of moving away, they have begun to warm up to the idea and are now very supportive. Again, we need to “embrace the chaos,” no matter how hard it may seem in its early phases.

As you encounter change in your personal and professional life, I hope that you will resist the tendency to stick to the status quo and allow yourself to have faith it will all work out. Change doesn’t have to be scary—it can actually be very exciting. And for even more excitement, why not consider how you could help someone else embrace their own chaos?

Mariah Stollar is a Student Assistant for the State CD Office. She is a senior at The Ohio State University, majoring in community leadership.

How Economic Developers Engage with Extension

Smith Lever Act of 1914

Credit: www.archivesfoundation.org

Extension has long been an economic development partner involved in a wide range of issues, from water quality and agricultural practices to retail and energy. Since passage of the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, Extension has provided outreach and non-formal education to strengthen lives and communities across the country.

Over the last century, Extension has continued its original mission to extend university resources while also adapting to changing times, to address a wide range of challenges and opportunities in both urban and rural areas. Extension can be found in all 50 states, with about 2,900 offices nationwide. In Ohio, over 700 Extension professionals staff offices within all 88 counties, in addition to numerous regional and state offices, that enable this outreach arm of Ohio State University to engage communities, businesses, and organizations of any size and location.

How do local economic development organizations (EDOs) find out about and engage with Extension? Typically, they hear about services and contact Extension directly, or Extension professionals reach out through workshops and forums about their programs and resources. Extension professionals are frequent speakers at a variety of conferences and meetings at the local, state, and national levels. EDOs are also often in contact with Extension professionals as co-members on boards of community and economic development organizations.

Extension has partnered with EDOs in pursuit of just about every imaginable economic development function. In Ohio, Extension was an early adopter of business retention and expansion practices, developing one of the first formal BR&E programs. Since 1986, Ohio State University Extension’s BR&E Program has developed capacity of community leaders via more than 140 programs in 77 Ohio counties, in both urban and suburban areas.

In terms of workforce development, OSU’s STEM Pathways program aims to increase youth curiosity, logical thinking, problem-solving skills, and team communication abilities, to ensure tomorrow’s workforce is highly skilled and globally competitive. Extension professionals teach the STEM program curriculum directly to students and in a train-the-trainer format for the teachers who will then deliver the program.

Energy development, including renewables and shale gas, is a focus area for Extension. New programs have been developed to help businesses and communities assess the costs and benefits of energy development. The commissioners of Wyandot County recently enlisted Extension to conduct a survey of residents and land owners on their feelings toward wind farm development. Survey findings enabled the county commissioners to decide whether wind development was a good fit for the county.

Most of Extension’s work is research-based, involving collecting, compiling, and analyzing original data through surveys, focus groups, and other outreach techniques. For instance, Extension professionals implement a variety of qualitative and quantitative tools to help communities better understand trends and conditions of their local and regional economies.

The Economic Impact Analysis (EIA) and Retail Market Analysis (RMA) programs are good examples of applied research in action. Both programs help communities measure change in their local economies to guide local decision-making. Extension professionals recently completed an EIA project to estimate the impact of tourism generated by the Lakeside Chautauqua in Ottawa County. RMA projects are frequently implemented, usually on the county level, to help inform EDOs about which retail sectors are growing and to identify gaps in the retail market.

Extension professionals and resources are also widely available online. Economic developers can find out more about Extension services on university websites, many of which have extensive links to fact sheets, blogs and social media sites. A somewhat new initiative, “eXtension,” is an internet-based portal with access to specialized information and research on a wide range of topics from land-grant universities across the country.

The pursuit of meaningful and productive partnerships is a core principle of Extension. Extension professionals seek out opportunities to collaborate on mutually beneficial projects and welcome new project ideas from economic developers and others. Economic developers can partner with Extension to leverage a wide range of useful university resources.

Nancy Bowen is an Associate Professor & Extension Field Specialist, Community Economics.