To submit a question, complete this online form.
What is Extension?
Virginia Cooperative Extension is an educational outreach program of Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, and a part of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture. Extension works in partnership with local governments.
Extension programs are delivered through a network of faculty at two universities, 106 county and city offices, 12 agricultural research and Extension centers, and six 4-H educational centers. Our system incorporates the expertise of faculty in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Natural Resources and Environment, the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, and the School of Agriculture at Virginia State University.
What does Extension do?
Virginia Cooperative Extension puts university knowledge into the hands of people. We are credible experts and educators who provide science-based information, education, and tools that Virginians can use every day to improve their lives.
How do I find my local Extension agent?
If you are a Virginia resident, the best way to find answers to subject-matter questions is to contact your local Extension office. We have offices in every county and many cities in Virginia.
Find the office nearest you on our Local Offices page that includes our research centers, or search for your closest office by entering your ZIP code in the search box at the top of this page, selecting “Office By ZIP,” and clicking “GO.”
If you are not a Virginia resident but are a U.S. resident, please direct your question to the Extension service in your state for the most accurate response. To find your state Extension service, visit State & National Partners on the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s website. Select your state from the map, and then follow the link to your Extension service.
You can also connect with an expert through eXtension, an online, interactive learning environment. Simply visit www.extension.org and click on the eXtension “Ask an Expert” icon in the right-side bar.
Funding and Organization Structure Questions
What is the status of the restructuring plan that was announced last fall?
The restructuring plan that was introduced in October 2010 is no longer being considered. Virginia Tech President Charles Steger suspended the work of the restructuring implementation teams in January 2011 so we could step back and begin a process in which internal and external stakeholders could be more engaged. In April 2011, the Virginia General Assembly and the governor adopted three budget amendments: one provides $1 million for an additional 25 field agents, one requires the Secretary of Education to take a closer look at Extension and how it is structured, and the third one outlines the groups, stakeholders, and suggested criteria to be used for shaping Extension’s future.
Last year there was a lot of discussion about Virginia Cooperative Extension’s funding resources and organizational structure. These questions have yet to be resolved. How will Extension continue to meet the needs of Virginia’s citizens?
The bottom line is that we have limited resources. With that said, we will look at where we have gaps in the organization — both physically, where we don’t have people present, and programmatically. We will then have to make some decisions about how best to fill those gaps with the means we have. To go beyond the critical vacancies, we are going to have to look for other resources. Hopefully we will be able to garner some funding from the public sector as well as the private sector to fill those needs.
The Virginia General Assembly has told us to put aside the reorganizational plan. We will be involved in a study with the Virginia secretary of education that will help guide the process as we determine how we do business in the future. In the interim — with the limited resources that we have — we will focus our efforts in a way that will continue to have a significant impact, but we will not be able to be everything to everybody, everywhere.
The mission of Extension is to deliver research-based information to the people of the commonwealth. What role do you see Virginia Tech and Virginia State University serving to fulfill this mission?
The Cooperative Extension Service was founded based on the understanding that great research is taking place at the land-grant universities — Virginia Tech, Virginia State, and others like them across the county — but it was not getting in the hands of the people who could apply it. Extension was established to help fill this void. Extension and research go hand in hand; neither can have the impact nor be as successful alone as they can together.
It is very important we don’t forget that relationship. If Extension was not connected to the research base, it could be like any other nonprofit or agency that stands alone, and we would not have the great impact that we do. The two have to be connected to make sure we are delivering the best information, as quickly as possible.
The General Assembly and governor approved $1 million for 25 agent positions. How many agents will there be once these positions are filled?
We estimate we will have about 215 agents when all funded positions are filled. The exact number depends on the availability of funds from local governments and other sources.
What are the criteria for filling these positions? What is the timeline?
We will evaluate current vacancies, and district directors and associate directors will evaluate where our most critical needs are —, both programmatically and physically. We have initiated the prioritization process and will proceed with trying to hire as many as we can, given our available resources.
In regards to new hires, it has been stated that offices that don’t have agents will be prioritized, and then counties that are willing to pay 50 percent of the salary of an agent will be considered. This sounds like a form of restructuring. Why are offices being penalized if they are still willing to cover the 33 percent of an agent’s salary? Who is making the final determinations?
We will evaluate all positions, no matter what amount the localities are able to contribute. Positions will be filled based on programmatic and physical needs. However, given the necessity to leverage state funding to the maximum extent possible, the degree of commitment (financial and otherwise) by localities will be a factor taken into consideration, among others, in making decisions with respect to the allocation of scarce resources.
What will the Secretary of Education’s report be used for?
The Secretary of Education’s report will be used to evaluate Extension’s organizational structure. Extension will work closely with the secretary and supply his office with the information requested. The Secretary will provide a report to the General Assembly by November 1, 2011.
How does Virginia Tech plan to increase its outreach with stakeholders as it moves forward?
We plan to hold listening sessions throughout the state. We will also launch a new website (www.future.ext.vt.edu) to highlight Extension’s statewide impact. The website will allow visitors to provide input and tell their own Extension stories.
What is the timeline?
While the Secretary of Education is completing his report, we will be gathering input and engaging our staff members, stakeholders, clients, and volunteers to help us determine how Extension should address the needs of the commonwealth. We will hold listening sessions and gather input throughout the summer and fall. After reviewing the findings of the Secretary of education’s report, we will determine our next steps.