Holmes OSU Extension holds community meet

Holmes OSU Extension holds community meet

Image Credit: Dave Mast

Sharing what you do as an organization is one huge step in creating awareness and appreciation for the things that take place. For the Ohio State University Extension Holmes County office, what its staff does is so varied and deep that it is hard to share the entire picture and their vision of what they do.

So they figured why not bring people in for a meal and an evening of sharing to get the ball rolling.

On Thursday, Sept. 30 the OSU Extension Holmes County advisory committee fall meeting took place at Harvest Ridge in the Baker Building, where the advisory committee met with area leaders in hopes of developing relationships, building avenues of communication and gaining insight that will help the extension office forge new programs in the future.

Led by extension members Kate Shumaker and Janessa Hill, the round-table discussion allowed participants to write down ideas and share opinions on topics important to Holmes County. The evening was a productive group discussion from which community partners and stakeholders could brainstorm and form beneficial network connections.

Hill said past advisory committee meetings have been small, so seeing the type of community turnout they had on this evening was a satisfying moment.

Shumaker said the extension office took a lot of time in developing the evening’s events and felt it was very important to get it right.

Meeting just two times each year, both educators wanted this to be the beginning of something that will carry on in years to come.

“This gives us a chance to get to know everyone a little better and to network, to bring our community together to see how we can work together and share what extension is and what we hope to accomplish,” Hill said.

Hill said the extension staff often jokes about being one of the best-kept secrets in the county, which she said is both good and bad.

“Those that know us, know us very well,” Hill said. “You can grab a 4-H volunteer, and they are pretty good at describing what it is we do. But beyond that, we need to find ways to reach more people and share what we are trying to accomplish, and this event is designed to kick-start that process by reaching out into the community to explore what they know and what they expect from us.”

Over the years Shumaker has been heavily involved with a variety of extension programs offered to the community in the field of family and consumer science. Programs like food service manager training, home food preservation, co-parenting programs, finance literacy for teens and Cooking with Kate classes that explore the enjoyable side of being in the kitchen have all been part of a busy 2021 schedule for the extension office.

In addition, the extension office is heavily invested in the county’s 4-H programs, which currently boast 445 members in 25 4-H clubs, 137 4-H volunteers and the completion of nearly 900 4-H projects. Youth presentations also are a big part of the job, with presentations on nature, animal quality assurance and two Ohio Fair Managers Conferences taking place among the many activities.

When it comes to advising, assisting and supporting the people and organizations of Holmes County, Shumaker said that is a priority for the team.

“Feedback and ideas go a long way in supporting what we do,” Shumaker said. “We have so many great organizations and businesses in Holmes County that have so much to offer. We have built relationships with some of them, but this may open the door to improving those partnerships, and hopefully, we will make new partnerships through this event that will help us all grow.”

She went on to say the extension has such an extensive number of programs under its wings that it does sometimes become difficult to promote them all well. She said making these connections might allow the attendees to go out in their realm and community and share about what is taking place, and the hope is this informational highway of sharing knowledge will eventually transfer beyond Holmes County into neighboring counties as they make connections.

Hill said finding ways for the extension office and the community to mutually help each other is a big step toward building stronger community bonds and thus creating more distinct programming that will benefit the youth and the community of Holmes County.

The round-table questionnaire session was designed to do just that. Each participating community member was given an opportunity to answer a series of questions concerning the county’s focus on social, political, economic, technological and scientific trends taking place within the business world, organizations and communities around the county.

Participants were asked to write what was going well, what challenges the county faces, where things could improve and where they felt the county was headed in the future.

The answers were as varied as the people in attendance with people in agriculture, the health field, businesspeople, county officials, faith community, and parents and grandparents.

Many of the topics brought up focused on the ongoing labor workforce shortage, the disappearance of farmland, education, healthcare and housing. One overriding theme on the positive side was the belief people of Holmes County are very willing to support one another and the various causes that promote goodwill.

Collecting this type of input will be valuable to help the extension continue to have its finger on the pulse of Holmes County and aid with upcoming issues.

“We want to find out what our communities want, and then we want to be able to cater to those needs as best we can, and in order to do that, we need to be prepared,” Hill said.