The word “Extension” is often thrown at and many people are unaware of what an “Extension Office” really does. According to Kia Harries Regional Director in Southwest Minnesota, “We’re making a difference by connecting community needs and University of Minnesota connections.” “We have a presence across Minnesota and we say we’re the front door of the University across the state.” According to Harries, “County government is 22 percent of our funding, so we appreciate your help with that.”

The Extension receives 41 percent or $27 million is provided by the State of Minnesota. “We often partner with other agencies across the state,” added Harries. “We are part of a three-legged tool,” said Harries. The three are, “Research, Education and the Value of the programs that make a difference across the state.”

Those programs are: 4-H Youth Development Program; agriculture and food; environment, families and communities Extension serves: Farmers, Community; Families; Youth and gardeners. Why is extension important to Lyon County?

According to Harries:

•Access to unbiased research based education;

•Access to the University of Minneota; one million Minnesotans participate annually in extensions programs; Extension volunteers provide more than 1.16 million hours of volunteer time.

•Engaged in 4-H to help kids make a difference in their lives and the school.

Sam Jens Lyon County 4-H county coordinator said, “The 4-H Program is a positive program that prepares youth to lead and succeed.” He said, “Extension discovers ways to create positive youth learning experiences.” “One of the things we do that is growing is the 4-H Ambassador program.” Trained 4-Hers serve to educate youth and adults about leadership, citizenship and service. Jens said, “We have nine clubs throughout the county.” “They are self-sustaining ‘community outreach’ program that includes the Community Pride projects; stuffed animal drive; community Education Day camps; Project Days and workshops and after school programs,” said Jens. There are 334 kids enrolled in Lyon County 4-H. Approximately 4,607 youth ages 5-18 are involved in Minnesota.

The 4-H in Lyon country ranks 39th out of 87 counties for the percent of youth enrolled. “We’re looking at ways to reach more youth than we are now,” said Jens. A new program is called, ‘WANTED: Future scientists” provides a critical need for scientists and engineers and it, “Provides a hands-on experience.” “Lyon County has a 4-H STEM Coordinator for using on reaching more youth in Lyon County,” said Jens. Grant funding is from the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development. “Working with STEM helps our programs grow,” Jens added. Another program started by the Lyon County Extension Office is called, “SNAP-ED WORKS.” This program is a challenge to help people create a healthier lifestyle.

“We want to created an appropriate balance for each person,” said Darlyce Rangaard. “I help them by talking about healthier lifestyles,” said Rangaard. Minnesota SNAP-ED reports a 39 percent of participants report eating more fruits and vegetables. She partners with many programs in the county, including the Food Shelves, WIC Clinics; farmers market, grocery stores and many others. “I have done five ‘Prevent Diabetes’ classes,” Rangaard said. “I take people to the store and show them how to shop, how to look at labels,” said Randgaard, “We partner with the food shelves.” Recently, she worked in Tracy to teach kids to eat healthier, she added. “Partnering is really important to us,” Rangaard added. “By working to ether we can make the healthy choice, the easy choice for all Minnesotans.”