We recently received a question on one of my old posts (Dec. 12, 2009) from a blog reader in Iran (yes, Iran) regarding agricultural extension and asking what’s new in how we disseminate science-based information. There’s no doubt that things have evolved in agricultrual extension over the years. There’s an old joke: Guy walks into a county extension office and the agent is sitting behind his desk, crying. The visitor asks, “What’s the matter?” Agent replies, “My farmer died.”
Hey, I said it was an old joke, I didn’t say it was a funny one. Point is, the days of field extension agents or campus-based extension personnel going out and holding a farmer’s hand are long gone. While some may still think of dim-witted Hank Kimball on “Green Acres” when they think of extension (go to http://www.hulu.com/watch/140842/green-acres-my-husband-the-rooster-renter if you miss the reference), most university extension is going increasingly high tech. I’m sure each on my colleagues can provide several examples of recent extension innovations in there area. I’ll provide one that we have just launched here at Michigan State.
Obviously the single biggest tool we have for outreach and extension is the internet. Recently, Dr. Pascal Nzokou, one of the lead members of our Christmas tree extension team launched the MSU Christmas Tree Channel on youtube http://www.youtube.com/user/MSUChristmasTrees
On the Christmas tree channel members of our extension team provide short (1 ½ – 4 minute) videos on various aspects of production: site selection, species selection, pest management, irrigation, nutrition.
There are several advantages of using youtube for these types of videos. First, uploading the videos is easy and straightforward. We had a professional shoot the videos and do the editing but anyone with a digital video camera can shoot videos and load them on to youtube. For short videos it’s easy to upload videos for viewing even at HD resolution eliminating the ‘Invisibale Gardener expereince’. Once the video is loaded you can send the link out to people you think will be interested or include the link on your website. People may also find your video using the search feature depending on the information you include in the description. Lastly, most people that use the web regularly are used to searching and viewing on youtube so there’s high consumer acceptance.