Extension plays a key role in the University of Minnesota's mission, but bringing Minnesotans together is how we build a better future through University science-based knowledge, expertise and training. Here are the most-read stories we shared about those Minnesotans this year.
Minnesota farmers constantly innovate and contribute much to their communities, so a perennial story, University of Minnesota salutes 2019 Farm Families of the Year, was a good read. The celebration of farmers was especially welcome because it was a tough year for many of them. Minnesota farm income hits historic low shared economic analysis conducted annually by Extension’s agricultural businesses management specialists in conjunction with others. Extension announces creation of rural stress task force soon followed.
Combining environmental work on invasive species and gardening, Janelle Dahmen, a Master Gardener volunteer in Hennepin County, showed how one person can make a difference in Report and remove black swallow-wort plant to help monarch butterflies. Master Naturalist and Aquatic Invasive Species Detector volunteers make their neighbors aware and help keep invasives in check, too, but the story Master Naturalists help conserve a native mussel species focused on their devotion to threatened native species.
Becoming a Master Gardener featured globetrotter Scott Sindelar, who came home to live on a Minnesota lake and use his skills in food and agriculture to help communities work together. Another popular story, Horticulture for hallowed ground, showed how Ft. Snelling National Cemetery gardener Trevor Blake used his Extension education to better care for the final resting place of veterans and their families. Yard and Garden News continued to draw in thousands of readers with timely tips for Minnesota gardeners.
“Newcomers bring communities more than exotic potluck dishes,” according to the story Get to know Minnesota’s rural resident recruitment initiatives. “They add workers to a depleted workforce and children to school districts.” It’s one of many stories about the Brain Gain, the term coined by Ben Winchester, Extension rural sociologist. Winchester has spoken nationally about his research, including on PBS News Hour.
It was a good year for the arts in Extension’s 4-H youth development world, as seen in the stories Local filmmaking community sees, develops potential in Minnesota’s 4-H youth and Eyes wide open to the arts. But if you like wild rice, bison, beans, corn and berries, you'll want to read White Earth 4-H club designs meal kit to promote traditional native foods. 4-H is supported by a wide network of volunteers and donors, such as this one from Sleepy Eye: Mary Bartz honored as Distinguished Friend of Extension.
Affordable ways to feed people of all ages is always important in Extension, which operates Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). Strengthening child care businesses, the healthy way showed how SNAP-Ed can address the child care shortage by helping rural child care providers like Nancy Anderson of Springfield. Cooking up better health showed how teen boys in north Minneapolis are connecting through EFNEP with Extension educator Michael Stratten.
Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships
A food forest in Luverne and the design of a Hmong community center in Walnut Grove were the topics of a Southwest region showcase story that many readers found intriguing. Do you have an idea to improve the sustainability of your community? You can read about RSDP priorities and visit the website to submit an idea brief.