Announcing Friday Field Notes – Stories from the Field from Practitioners Using Cooperative Extension to Build Community Capacity

We are excited to announce that Friday Field Notes will begin in April, 2016. The objective  of Friday Field Notes is to present powerful, replicable examples of how cooperative extension is a readily available force-multiplier for the Family Readiness mission area. Friday Field Notes will present first person accounts of how cooperative extension and the land grant universities are helping to build the capacity of communities to enhance the resilience and well-being of military service men and women and their families.  You can expect stories from extension educators, from practitioners from across the military’s family readiness programs, and from experts at land grant universities.    These stories will hopefully inspire additional powerful collaborations that capitalize on the cooperative extension service and the land grant colleges and universities.

Friday Field Notes

But, what are land grant colleges and universities you ask? A land-grant college or university is an institution that has been designated by its state legislature or Congress to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The original mission of these institutions was to teach agriculture, military tactics, and the mechanic arts as well as classical studies so that members of the working classes could obtain a liberal, practical education. There are 106 of them, and they have always been related to the military in some way. It is interesting to visualize them geographically, especially when also visualizing military installations. One of the goals of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Community Capacity Building concentration area is to better link these various nodes towards a community capacity building network.

map of military installationsmap of land grants

A key feature of the land grant colleges and universities is the Cooperative Extension System. The 1914 Smith Lever Act established extension on a nationwide basis as a unique cooperative effort by federal, state, and local governments. The theory behind university extension is that education and research developments achieved through public funding should be more broadly available to those not attending the institutions and throughout one’s lifetime, especially, we believe,  in the case of servicemen and women and their families. To realize that goal, programs were developed that geographically extended the availability of the educational resources of an institution by special arrangements such as correspondence courses, on-site consultations to persons otherwise unable to take advantage of such resources, and today, by use of electronic resources such as provided by the  Military Families Learning Network.  The Cooperative Extension System is a potentially HUGE community capacity building asset and catalyst for military families, in great part due to its reach, with a presence in all of the more than 3,100 counties in the US.

county map

The potential of the Cooperative Extension Service and the land grant colleges and universities to be a readily available force-multiplier for the Family Readiness mission area was recognized by leaders at the Department of Defense and the Department of Agriculture, and an MOU was signed between the two agencies to facilitate investment in developing, refining, and deploying the Cooperative Extension Service in the area of Family Readiness.  This MOU is the foundation of our work in the Military Families Learning Network, in the Community Capacity Building concentration area of MFLN, and of Friday Field Notes.

dod-usda proclomation

Our first Friday Field Note will come to us next Friday from Waupaca County, Wisconsin, where Jessica Beckendorf, a Community Resource Development extension educator and Sandy Liang, a Family Living extension educator are demonstrating how cooperative extension can help build a community’s capacity to enhance the resilience and well-being of transitioning military service men and women and their families. Save the date, mark your calendar, and join us next Friday the 15th of April!