Allen County Extension Agency helps community blossom
In a world full of expensive ways to learn, Anna Meador says extension agency programs have always been one of the nation’s best-kept secrets.
“We’re a nonprofit, and most of what we provide is free or nearly free,” says Meador, the 4-H Youth Development coordina-tor at Allen County Cooperative Extension Agency. “I always say you could nearly get the equivalent of a degree just by participating in our programs.”
But the Allen County Cooperative Extension Agency isn’t that big of a secret — not anymore, at least. With the help of internet service from NCTC, the agency’s social network presence has brought in even more participants to its programs.
“No doubt, there’s been an upswing in participation since using social media,” Meador says. “Each of our program areas offers its own Facebook page — 4-H, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Family and Consumer Sciences. It lets us put out frequent reminders and updates about our workshops and programs. And when families share things online about all we do, it gets others interested, too.”
When Meador started at the agency about four years ago, it focused primarily on other forms of media to get the word out. “We used a lot of flyers,” she says. “We still do, but as fast-paced as life is for people these days, it just helps to market to people online.”
The marketing helped give several programs and workshops a boost, including the agency’s SET Club, which stands for science, engineering and technology. The program, which meets about eight times a year when schools are in session, gives children hands-on experience with science-related projects. “It’s a really popular program,” Meador says. “A few months ago, they made a walking robot out of cut wood pieces. It was battery-powered from the back. They’ll do a little bit of everything, but robots are really popular right now.”
ONLINE ALL THE TIME
The agency also found new audiences online with YouTube videos that focus on everything from planting a garden to whether those popular meal kits are worth the price. “We are definitely very tied to the internet,” Meador says. “If we don’t have it, things definitely slow down quite a bit.”
Compiling and transferring all that information keeps the agency on its toes. The staff includes Family and Consumer Sciences Agent Kelly Burgess, Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent Adam Huber and SNAP-Ed Assistant Nancy Owens. “All of our programs are supported with research from the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Program,” Meador says. “We do everything from soil testing and insect identification to helping families with budgets or learning how to plant winter greens or a summer garden. We have solutions for so many problems people face in their homes or on their farms.”
Fortunately, the agency sits in a building that many such organizations might envy for its space and location. Once a large
tractor dealership, the three-story building on East Main Street in Scottsville became the agency’s permanent home about 15 years ago. The basement and main floor hold the bulk of the meeting space, along with a demonstration kitchen. The top floor is primarily for storage.
“It’s probably one of the most heavily used buildings in the county, besides the school system,” Meador says. “It’s open to the entire community to use. Nonprofits can use it for free, and for- profit groups can use it for a small fee.”
Meador says the building helps the agency meet its mission, which is to provide education for everyone in the community. “We focus on hands-on learning and continued education for young people and adults — just anything that provides skills to enhance everyday life,” she says. “We all work very hard to provide a wide variety of programs, and we take a lot of enjoyment in tailoring and providing programs to meet the community’s needs.”
Content provided with permission from NCTC.