K-State Research and Extension has 13 districts with 33 counties. Gove County recently voted to join the existing Golden Prairie Extension District. Crawford, Montgomery, and Labette counties are on track to form a 14th district.
Kansas Residents See Advantages of Districting
The residents of Gove County spoke clearly during November’s mid-term election. By more than a 2-to-1 margin, voters merged their local K-State Research and Extension operations with those in neighboring Trego and Logan counties, which had formed the Golden Prairie District
The district’s director, Scott Barrows, thinks Gove County voters made a pretty good decision.
“I’m just so excited,” Barrows said. “It’s a very good move for the three counties. People in Gove County realized that if they want to keep the traditional programs in Gove County, they needed to move to a district.”
Jim Lindquist, K-State Research and Extension’s assistant director for field operations, is one of the organization’s leaders in helping counties form districts. By early 2011, Lindquist said he anticipates 14 districts covering 38 counties in Kansas.
Golden Prairie District was the 12th district in Kansas. Post Rock District
in north central Kansas was the first district formed in 1994.
“Districts were conceived as a way for local extension councils to change how they are organized for greater efficiency and greater effectiveness,” Lindquist said. “We feel like they give us the best opportunity to be relevant to Kansas citizens.”
One of K-State’s success stories is the Meadowlark District
, which was formed in 2006 and consists of Nemaha, Jefferson, and Jackson counties. Six agents serve residents in the three counties.
“What I like about districts is that patrons can now interact with an agent who has had specialized training,” said David Keys, Meadowlark District director. “This process has not been easy. Individuals accept change differently. Many people now see the benefits of a district and appreciate the effort of the agents and the board to keep up the good work.”
In southeast Kansas, Crawford, Montgomery, and Labette counties are on track to form the state’s 14th district, which should become official on July 1, 2011. The three counties have a history of sharing resources — they’ve split the cost of a horticulture agent for nearly 35 years.
Forming a district means the counties “will be able to commit more personnel resources to residents,” said Tim Dainty, chair of the Crawford County Extension Council. “We will be able to pool resources from three counties and provide greater reach. This translates to dollar savings in terms of purchasing power, and time savings in terms of time dedicated to programming.”
Lindquist said K-State Research and Extension’s goal is to provide the opportunity for any Kansas county to join a district if it wants to do so.
“It may not be appropriate for every extension council,” he said. “They have to evaluate the potential benefits for their county and the potential opportunities for sharing information. I’m pleased that more and more counties see beneficial aspects of forming districts.”
Jennifer Schoenfeld, an agent in Gove County, was especially excited when her county’s residents chose to join the Golden Prairie District.
“It’s going to be a great move for Gove County as far as sustaining services and moving forward,” she said.
“People will see us not only maintain K-State Research and Extension in the county, but also increase exposure and services for citizens. And I think people deserve that.”