Extension’s Role in the Community
For 100 years, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension has been enhancing and sustaining the quality of human life by making University research accessible to the public. UF/IFAS Extension is a federal-state-county partnership dedicated to developing knowledge in agriculture, human and natural resources, and the life sciences. UF/IFAS has a reputation for excellence in teaching and research on the University campus, which is extended into every community in the state through County Extension offices. This branch of UF/IFAS is typically referred to as “Extension,” with “Extension Agents” tasked with carrying out educational programs.
Since inception, the Escambia County Extension Agents of UF/IFAS have translated research from the UF campus into useful instruction for members of the community, taking a highly engaging approach to learning. For example, natural resource agents lead clientele in kayaking trips over seagrass beds to teach them about coastal ecology, while the agriculture agent hosts a biannual farm tour for elected officials. Horticulture agents teach physically and intellectually challenged youth to grow vegetables in a wheelchair accessible garden, while 4-H youth learn legislative procedure at mock sessions in the state capital.
Customer service surveys performed in 2012 indicated 96% of residents who used Escambia County Extension were satisfied with their experience, and 90% of walk-in clientele said the information they received answered their questions or solved their problem. Annually, Escambia County Extension Agents train over 700 volunteers to further the reach of our educational efforts, with a total contribution (in 2012) of 54,035 hours valued at $983,437. Individuals in our classes and workshops return to Extension time after time, due to the Agents’ ability to utilize relationships with UF and local community members to provide targeted, science-based information through creative teaching methods. All of these efforts promote the advancement of agriculture, natural resources and sustainable economic development in Escambia County. Program area advisory committees, comprised of local citizens, assure that programs meet community needs. Public programs are open to all residents regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin or handicap. The Escambia County Extension office is a partnership between UF/IFAS and Escambia County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) and is a department within the local government system.