November 24, 2004 | By: Aimee Heald-Nielson

According to the latest census figures, Kentucky ’s population is approximately 52 percent urban.  For University ofKentucky Cooperative Extension agents, this presents a challenge, since traditionally they have focused programming on rural residents in their counties.

Recently Extension agents from Kentucky ’s 15 most urban counties gathered in Louisville to learn about “Meeting the Urban Challenge.” 

“We certainly don’t want to forget our rural audience though,” said Joanne Bankston, Kentucky State University Extension professional.  “But politically we also need to think about working with all our clientele – people who can use our services.  I think Extension has so many wonderful tools and so much information that people can use in their daily lives and not only rural families, but urban ones as well.”

Bankston said there have been many other state Extension services looking at ways they can reach the broadening audience in urban areas.  The Kentuckyconference was the first of its kind in the state, but it likely will lead to more.”

DJ Scully, Extension agent for agricultural and natural resources in Boone County, said that the program would be evaluated to see if there are gaps and if there is information the agents didn’t receive, other meetings can be focused to meet those needs.

“As an agent, I’m always on the front lines and we don’t always have all the tools we need,” he said.  “But if we can communicate with our resource personnel, we can quickly be trained and become better agents.”

Participants listened to a variety of speakers talk about issues that are unique to urban areas.  Laura Stanton is the president and founder of Mind Seed, an innovative education and training company that focuses on areas of family education, professional development and child care education.  She talked to attendees about becoming culturally competent.”

“Culture is like a pair of glasses that shape how we see the world,” she said.  “Sometimes they are hard to take off and see things any different. We are on a lifelong journey and because things change, we change and so does culture.”

Scully said that county populations affect more than direct Extension programming. 

“Our county’s population has an effect on our state legislature and also funding that could be passed down to Extension,” he said.  “But more importantly, it affects the way that we, as a land-grant university and an Extension service that has to disseminate useful information, have a response to everyone in the county.  I think what we’re doing here is trying to find more ways to get involved in our communities and try to do that in innovative ways.”

Scully said there are many players in urban-area policy.

“You go to small rural counties and everyone knows what Extension is about,” he said.  “But you go to an urban area and there is a myriad of other organizations, agencies and services; Extension can quickly get lost and we want to change that.”

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Writer: Aimee Nielson 859-257-4736 ext. 267
Source: DJ Scully, 859-572-2600