February 21, 2000 | By: Haven Miller

To stay in tune with clients, Kentucky's Cooperative Extension service recently surveyed nearly 400 Kentuckians and asked if their community was better off because of Extension. More than 92 percent said it was.

The survey, called Speak Out On Extension, was conducted during a series of public meetings held in 14 counties last summer. Counties included urban and rural areas, and were selected to provide a diversity of economics and population.

"Because serving local needs is critical to Extension's mission, several of our survey questions dealt with the benefits communities receive from their investment in Cooperative Extension Service programs," said Roger Rennekamp, program and staff development specialist for the UK College of Agriculture.

The state's 120 county Cooperative Extension offices are staffed with personnel from both the University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University. They are the main community source for high-quality, research-based information on topics that include agriculture, nutrition, family and youth, and community development. Because Extension is taxpayer supported, survey participants also were asked if the Service is "worth the money." More than 90 percent indicated agreement or strong agreement.

Asked if information from local offices is accurate and up-to-date, 86 percent indicated agreement or strong agreement by circling a "4" or "5" on a five-point scale. When asked if information is easy to understand, more than 90 percent agreed or strongly agreed. When asked if Extension staff are friendly and courteous, 96 percent indicated strong agreement.

Survey participants included males and females ranging in age from late teens to over-65, and represented both frequent and non-frequent users of Extension. During meetings they completed questionnaires and participated in small group discussions.

According to Martha Nall, Extension program and staff development specialist, survey results will be used as a guide for future programs and to improve service to local communities.

"The whole purpose of the land-grant Cooperative Extension Service is to serve the needs of local people by providing reliable, non-biased information to improve their quality of life," said Nall. "Our survey results are gratifying, but also tell us that we can't relax our efforts – Kentuckians are telling us in this survey what they expect and need, and Extension must continue to meet their needs."