Cities are booming. All across the United States, as well as the world, the urban population continues to grow at historic rates. Currently, 80% of Americans live in an area defined as “urban,” the same as Ohio. Over half of the people in Ohio live in the ten most populated counties, and even larger proportions of people are economically contingent on these urban areas. This creates peculiar urban-suburban-rural dependencies. The connection between these areas leads to an interesting network for Extension programming. Extension is traditionally known as an agricultural-based organization that operates mostly in rural areas, but tries to take a different, more applicable approach when working in urban areas.
With 11.5 million residents, Ohio is the seventh most populated state in the nation. Ohio’s six largest cities are Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron and Dayton. Ohio’s ten most populated counties are Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Summit, Montgomery, Lucas, Stark, Butler, Lorain and Mahoning.
To reach more residents in Ohio’s largest cities, four primary working groups have emerged in Extension to focus on different city priorities. These areas of focus were identified through conversations with various stakeholder groups, supported through campus and national networks, and approached through multi-disciplinary teams and resources. The groups collaborate and discuss programming barriers they face in their cities, as well as new ways to address these issues. While every city in Ohio is unique, these working groups assist one another in more effectively impacting their area of focus.
- Food & Agriculture in the City: Ohio communities are making the production, processing, distribution, preparation and celebration of food a catalyst for urban neighborhood redevelopment.
- Health and Wellness in the City: Extension empowers Ohioans with the knowledge, skills and tools needed to make healthy choices, creating healthy people with healthy relationships and healthy finances at every stage of life.
- 4-H Youth Development in the City: The OSU Extension 4-H Youth Development programming offers educational opportunities in a variety of settings for youth ages 5–19, catering to urban audiences.
- Sustainable Cities: Extension specialists work with city leaders on economic, environmental and social drivers that impact life in the city.
As these working groups are creating ways to more efficiently reach potential participants, efforts are also being made to better equip our educators in urban areas with tools to reach more people. The goal is to provide them with ways to make their programs more applicable to residents in the cities where they work, as well as facilitating professional development to ensure they are being excellent ambassadors of The Ohio State University, the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and OSU Extension.
To learn more, visit cityextension.osu.edu. This is an emerging effort and your comments, suggestions and participation are all welcomed. If you think you would like to join the OSU Extension in the City team as a core, affiliate/working group or informational member, please feel free to contact James Stiving (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Julie Fox (email@example.com).
(Submitted by James Stiving, Program Assistant, Extension in the City/Central Region Office and Julie Fox, Associate Professor, Associate Chair, Director of Central Region and OSU Extension in the City)