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Animal Agribusiness Angle

Roy Graber, staff reporter for WATTAgNet, combines his Midwestern farming background with his knowledge of economics and agriculture policy to offer a deeper look at the poultry and pig industries.
North America / Industry News & Trends

Has Google become the new extension office?

Extension-office
Information on agricultural topics is becoming increasingly more accessible online, but the need for county extension offices remains. | Roy Graber

Agricultural information from experts is more accessible, but people still benefit from county extension offices

June 12, 2017

The way we access information about agricultural topics certainly has changed in rather short order.

Sadly, a few weeks ago one of our horses died, and a few days ago I got a text from a relative. She came up with the idea that we could plant a special type of clover where he is buried.

I liked the idea of having a more colorful area there to honor him, but I wasn’t quite convinced. I’m not much of a botanist, but I know enough to know that if that is some type of invasive plant species, I didn’t want it spreading throughout the pasture. I expressed that concern.

“I’ll Google it,” was the response I received.

At first, this seemed like a perfectly normal way to learn. The next day, it occurred to me how much times have changed, and in rather short order.

Just a few years ago, using Google probably wouldn’t have even crossed my mind. Instead, I probably would have just picked up the phone and called “Ned,” the county extension agent for agriculture. I could always count on him to have an answer to my agriculture related questions. If he didn’t know the answer, he would put me in contact with someone who did, or he would research all of the extension resources available to him.

I also recall being at a cattlemen’s association meeting one time, and the speaker asked the question: “Have you ever Googled anything?” Probably less than half of the people in the room raised their hands. One older man, with a confused look on his face, looked at his wife, then shrugged his shoulders and raised his hand. The verdict is still out whether he even knew what that meant.

Now, we are pretty sure just about everyone knows what that means.

Are extension offices still as widely used?

I will be the first to admit that I don’t use my local extension office as often as I used to. I no longer live in the county seat and don’t see my agents on a routine basis. Without that personal connection and with a wealth of information available online through extension and other governmental agriculture agencies or agricultural universities, calling your county agent seemed less necessary.

So that made me wonder if there are others like me who rely less on their extension agents. I called a longtime extension worker I know and asked.

He admitted that the ways in which county extension offices are used may have changed a little, but overall use does not seem to be down. That personal connection with the county extension staff is still something that brings people in, and will likely continue to do so.

While accurate information on nearly every topic can be found online, you still need to be careful not to take everything you read as the gospel. And if all else fails, call or visit your county extension office.

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