Extension Agency gathers valuable community input

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

The Crenshaw County Cooperative Extension agency hosted a Grassroots open house July 18, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the John D. Harrison Cultural Center. The event provided an opportunity for discussion regarding ongoing and future Extension programs and gave stakeholders and community members a chance to offer valuable input.  

Attendees had the opportunity to interact with the Crenshaw County Extension staff including Crenshaw County Extension Coordinator Amanda West Evans, Administrative Support Associate Jayden Powell, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Educator (SNAP-Ed) for Crenshaw and Pike Counties Kristin Sanders, and 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent Heather Sanders, along with various Regional Extension Agents (REAs).

Evans highlighted the importance of gathering feedback from the citizens of Crenshaw County to ensure that Extension programming remains relevant and responsive to their needs, stressing the fact that the insights gathered from the community will play a vital role in shaping upcoming extension programs.

“Ensuring the delivery of pertinent programming requires a comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced by our citizens,” Evans said. “Today’s gathering serves as an open group discussion, composed of feedback from individuals from diverse backgrounds. We hope that we can gather a lot of ideas and opinions and thoughts today. By understanding the issues faced by the citizens of Crenshaw County, the Extension office can deliver more relevant and impactful programs that address the community’s specific challenges and opportunities.”

Before the open house, the agency sent out grassroots surveys to various stakeholders in the community. Evans said that the feedback collected through the surveys was also a crucial aspect of the discussion during the event.

Callie Nelson, assistant director for County Office Operations, discussed the vital role of grassroots meetings and the necessity of obtaining input from citizens.

“These meetings and the input we receive throughout the year help us to identify the community’s true needs and develop educational programs to support them,” Nelson said. “The agency considers both grassroots feedback and data-driven, evidence-based research, including input from federal partners like the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to design evidence-based programs that address the community’s issues effectively. We also take into account what funding is available and the readiness of the community to participate in specific programs.”

During the open house, the attendees were presented with the six Strategic Plan Action Priorities, which include educational programming, marketing, stewardship of resources, cooperation, employee workforce development, technology, diversity, equity and inclusion. These priorities serve as guiding principles for the Extension agency as they plan and implement their various programs and initiatives.

One of the attendees, Stallion Sasser, a local farmer who has children that attend Crenshaw County Schools, and who serves as county commissioner for district 4, expressed his admiration for the Extension’s efforts in promoting agriculture, being an asset to local farmers, and providing resources to the community. He acknowledged the positive impact of Extension’s programs, including the revitalization of the farmers market and engaging 4-H initiatives for the youth.