Faculty & Staff Newsletter
UMass Extension’s second retreat in recent years for staff and extension faculty was deemed worthwhile. Facilitator David Specht helped to shape a day focused on opportunities for collaboration and partnership as well as time to identify future challenges. 75 participants met to introduce themselves or to reconnect with colleagues in the beautifully-restored Old Chapel on campus.
The retreat began with a living history of CAFE's extension programs where Specht invited everyone to line up according to the year they began, bringing us back to the 1980's. This exercise provided a visual snapshot of employment longevity and commitment to the ideals of extension. Rob Cox, head, special collections and university archives, UMass libraries, offered a window into the roots of extension. Cox shared several archival images and reviewed the rich history of extension work from its humble beginnings. John Lee, retired farm manager of Allandale Farm and member of UMass Extension Board of Public Overseers (BOPO), provided a real life experience of all that has and is changing in farming. This includes size and types of farms along with noticeable impacts of climate change on crops. Dean Trica Serio delivered remarks in support of the work of extension. Having just returned from a meeting at the Cranberry Station where she donned waders to experience the cranberry bog, Dean Serio shared her close-up encounter of the outreach extension provides. Our last speaker, Christina Maxwell, program manager, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, presented sobering statistics on the level of food insecurity in the state. For example, it surprised many to learn that in western Massachusetts more than 223,000 people in Western Massachusetts struggle with food insecurity every day. Of those individuals, 64% reside in Hampden County. The work done by Maxwell's organization to provide food to hungry families lines up with extension's nutrition programs, among others. The Food Bank requires hundreds of volunteers and if you are interested in helping, click here. Maxwell generously offered visits to The Food Bank, with or without students. To set up a site visit, contact Christina Maxwell at 413-247-9738 ext. #119.
In between speakers, participants had several opportunities to collaborate and work with people from their own programs as well as across extension departments. Trends and needs were discussed and synthesized at tables with facilitated worksheets and on flipcharts. Points of pride within departments, identification of specific areas of focus and documentation of challenges faced by extension programs were shared with all attendees. At the end of the day, synergies were explored and extension programs were invited to offer assistance to colleagues in various departments, accomplishing the goal of collaboration. These offers of help will be shared with extension departments soon.