A lot of people tend to wonder that if the rest of the world is shut down while COVID-19 is coming through our areas, what is it that Extension is doing?
We are educators and we are a huge support to the agriculture industry. And we fall into the arena of essential workers. Even if our work might be in a completely different area than most essential workers, we are working hard to help make sure that people, families, businesses, and communities have all of the education and tools they need to function in our “new normal.” Above all, UF/IFAS Extension Columbia County has worked to keep track of all of the accomplishments they’ve made during the this time of social distancing.
We’ve had a huge amount of interaction
UF/IFAS Extension Columbia County made huge strides from March 16-April 30. We were able to host 11 live events with 405 live viewers of these events and 2,665 total viewers. These live events covered an array of horticultural topics, the 4-H Laying Hen Project, and support of Extension Professionals across the nation. Gardeners have come out of the woodwork to try their hand at our Victory2020 Garden Community while receiving seeds, youth record books, online classes and instruction, and posters to hang in their gardens. People that follow our office on social media and following our blogs received 118 posts that reached over 42,000 people! Seven videos were created that had over 5,500 views. Our Extension Agents even applied for grants and received over $20,000 to support programming!
Program planning and training
Something that we really wanted to make sure we were up to date on was our programming. Faculty and staff had over 140 program planning meetings and they took over 110 training sessions to better their abilities.
Phone Calls and Emails
And of course our Extension Agents and Staff never let phone calls or emails go unanswered. During this period, 544 phone calls were made and/or received and 3,550 emails were responded to and sent. Direct communication with our clientele is not something that we let go to the wayside, obviously. We were able to answer all of the looming questions about when pesticide testing would resume, how to sign up for classes online, when and how people would receive their stimulus checks, and a long list of other random agriculture, horticulture, youth development, financial, and/or health and wellness based questions.
Check out our stats on all of the activity from March 16-30 here: Outreach Flyer.
What are we doing now for protection?
As of May 15, 2020, our office is open to the public again. But we do have a few restrictions in place to protect you and our faculty and staff. We have restricted the lobby to no more than 2 people in at a time. One-on-one meetings may be held with us to get education and recommendations but an appointment must be made in advance. Masks are highly recommended and our faculty and staff will be wearing them when they are in the same room or space as another individual. We are limiting the number of people in our office overall to cut down on the possibility of transmission and keeping an entry log of the people in and out. Above all, we are protecting you and us! And remember, restrictions and policies can change at any point in this ever fluid pandemic situation.
What education and opportunities are available now?
Well, we never stopped education! We only stopped traveling and in-person activities. We currently are trying to continue all of our classes in a virtual format. However, we are working on opportunities for those things that require in-person time. Pesticide testing will resume soon but everything will be based on appointments scheduled with the proper amount of time for sanitizing of spaces and equipment. Agents are requesting travel when situations are essential. So, be sure to reach out if you have a pressing need that we can help with. Be sure to follow our office on Facebook @ColumbiaExtension to see all of the events we have scheduled. Check out our brochure here for more information on what we are doing: Columbia County Brochure COVID-19.