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Serving during the time of COVID

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

by Lisa Jones, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, County Extension Coordinator, Jefferson

Q.: What’s Happening With Extension In Jefferson County?

A: What’s Not?

Like the rest of the country in mid March, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System received notice that Extension services would continue to serve in a remote operating format. Following the lead of our universities, Alabama A&M and Auburn, our Jefferson County team quickly responded to do our very best to work remotely and still support the vital work of bringing educational resources to our constituents.

Since then we have moved from nascent efforts to maintain our work, to increasingly sophisticated delivery reaching even more new audiences. There are so many metaphors that have been used, crawl, walk, run; trial by fire; flying it while you build it….my personal favorite is “shifting gears without a clutch”. It’s possible to do it, but you don’t want to do it forever and there are some tricks that have to be learned to make it happen. I won’t burden the metaphor beyond the mention, but we have indeed had some real advancements with our gear shifting! I’m proud of this team and you can be sure that the entire group remains committed to providing our Jefferson County citizens with our best effort regardless of the circumstances.

4-H and Human Sciences Update

Our team has continued to reach youth through 4-H preparing and distributing at least 150 activity bags that include a parachute engineering challenge. Our team trained VISTA volunteers from the City of Birmingham to deliver Junior Master Gardener and other curricula through summer camps, which the city is valiantly working to safely host. Our Human Sciences team hosted workforce education seminars to help people reenter the job market and estate planning workshops for seniors to better understand how to organize their important papers and connect with planning resources. Through our family and child development agents on this team we have had weekly times to touch base on social media to get encouraging and practical tips on staying healthy and balanced during this unprecedented challenge.

Agriculture, Forestry Natural Resources Update

The specialists and educators from the AFNR team have stretched the boundaries of program delivery using a wide variety of digital resources including online classes and social media events. Even research is ongoing with a field trial to control privet set up on a farm here in Jefferson County. Our Regional Agents have worked with clients remotely and when necessary, following safe protocols in person.

According to Gary Gray, Regional Extension Agent for Commercial Horticulture serving central Alabama,

“Some of the many online programs that our Commercial Horticulture Team members have collaborated on (since the COVID operation changes began in March) which I have enjoyed co-conducting, have been our Q&A Friday! events on Facebook Live. Along with three other team members, I presented information on fruit, vegetable and ornamental crops on April 10 (1,320 People Reached, 258 Engagements, 457 Views, 48 Comments, 5 Shares) and May 15 (422 People Reached, 95 Engagements, 213 Views, 23 Comments, 5 Shares). A wide variety of clientele questions are answered and discussed during this weekly live event. Our Thursday Virtual Farm Tours have also been very popular as well, allowing clientele to view and learn about horticultural farming across Alabama without leaving home.

We always encourage our clientele to install the Farming Basics App, among our other digital resources which have proven extremely timely during this pandemic, since the app has our contact info, crop info, social media and video connectivity allowing clientele to view our Facebook Live events as well as our library of YouTube videos and other resources directly from the app.”

More information about our Commercial Horticulture Team digital resources and events can be found here: .

Land grant universities were built to benefit the public, and Cooperative Extension established to ensure that the best research reached the community. Abraham Lincoln remarked “The land grant university system is being built on behalf of the people, who have invested in these public universities their hopes, their support, and their confidence.” We will still cherish the day that we are able to be back in a face to face setting for education. Sometimes there is no substitute for the in person learning experience, but in this unprecedented time we are proud of the commitment and effort of our team to shift gears without a clutch, managing to only grind a few.

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