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Extension Office gives you the programs you request

January 16, 2007|By JEFF SEMLER

Agriculture is still the largest industry in the state of Maryland and contributes nearly $60 million in farm gate receipts to the economy of Washington County.

Many people go about their business with little thought of the impact of their neighbors' toils other than at meal time.

One of my charges as an Extension Educator is to provide those engaged in production agriculture with technical assistance and information.

It is a very rewarding endeavor; I accomplish this mission in many ways. We provide seminars, conferences and classes - many of which you have heard about lately with the recent Future Harvest Conference and our Estate Planning Workshop.

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In addition, I provide individual counsel.

I thoroughly enjoy sitting around a table helping a farm business grow and transition. My role is to listen and advise. This allows me to help the family accomplish their goals.

But not every story has a happy ending. Sometimes, it is best for everyone to discontinue the operation. In nearly every case, this conclusion is usually reached because the next generation chooses not to follow the path of their parents.

But how does Maryland Cooperative Extension plan its programs? Obviously, my personal consultations are driven by requests, but what about the more formal educational programs?

Some are dictated, such as continuing education for pesticide applicators. The Maryland Department of Agriculture requires every farmer who applies restricted pesticides to keep current on this issue.

So every December and March, we offer seminars to that end. We will review best management practices and share new developments and technologies.

Yet the vast majority of our programming is driven by our audience. We ask you.

In 2005, the Extension office surveyed the dairy farmers in Maryland to ask them their needs. Washington County is the second largest dairy county in the state and I am proud to say we had more than 50 percent of our dairy farmers return their surveys.

This is a big deal: Pollsters like Gallup, Nielsen or CNN shoot for a 3 percent return rate.

Well, we have listened. In 2006, the state Extension office offered targeted programming, with Washington County having the highest attendance rate.

Now in 2007, we are again offering programs you requested. The top two concerns listed by producers were reproduction and mastitis.

Dr. Ray Nebel (formerly an Extension specialist with Virginia Tech for 25 years and now the Select Reproductive Solutions Specialist with Select Sires Inc.) will address one of the concerns on Jan. 18, from 10 a.m. to noon, at the Washington County Extension Office.

Ray has been asked to address some of your questions identified from the Maryland Dairy Survey.

A tentative agenda includes "Heat Detection - the Good, the Bad and the Ugly," and "Factors Influencing Conception Rates."

Ray is a very well-respected reproductive physiologist and brings both scientific and practical expertise to his workshops. You will enjoy his down-to-earth style and candor.

Call 301-791-1304 by Jan. 17 to register, or if you have questions.

The second area of concern - mastitis - will be addressed on Feb. 22 through a bulk tank analysis workshop, where we will evaluate individual farms' bulk tank samples and give consultation. Participation is limited and we are over half-full so please register by Friday, Jan. 19.

As you can see, as Extension educators, we do not decide what we will teach but rather, we ask the end users, you.

So watch for future announcements of programs offered to you and if you or your group has an idea or a need, give us a call.

Our mission is "Educating People to Help Themselves."

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by e-mail at jsemler@umd.edu

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