2019 Delaware Cooperative Extension Conference

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Ernie Lopez (far left), Doug Crouse (second from right) and Michelle Rodgers (far right) present a Friends of Extension award to Joseph Poppiti, Laura Hill and Richard Wilkins of Delaware Farm Bureau.
Ernie Lopez (far left), Doug Crouse (second from right) and Michelle Rodgers (far right) present a Friends of Extension award to Joseph Poppiti, Laura Hill and Richard Wilkins of Delaware Farm Bureau.
Delaware Center for Horticulture receives a Friend of Extension Award
Carrie Murphy (left) and Michelle Rodgers (right) congratulate Vikram Krishnamurthy of Delaware Center for Horticulture on a Friend of Extension Award.

University of Delaware Cooperative Extension reflects, refreshes, and resets at annual conference

With a theme of “Reflect, Refresh, and Reset,” University of Delaware and Delaware State University (DSU) Cooperative Extension staff looked back upon a year of accomplishments and ahead to 2020 at the Delaware Cooperative Extension Conference at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover. 

Engaging activities and talks were spread throughout the day. After a brief ice breaker, recently retired Delaware State social faculty member, Sheridan Q. Kingsberry, jumped in with both feet to discuss creating work-life balance. 

“Work-life balance is both idealism and realism,” she explained. “We need to refresh to avoid burnout at work.” The benefits of designing and maintaining an environment of balance in the workplace include improvements in staff wellbeing and a better return on investment (ROI) for supervisors. 

This balance was put into action throughout the conference where traditional workshops and encouraging talks were interspersed with a few non-traditional conference additions — preparing Stockings for Soldiers, a yoga demonstration by Jason Aviles of FLYOGI and some genuine laughter and dancing led by UD Employee Health and Wellbeing’s Ryan Shuler.

Attendees also spent some time digging into their work, reflecting on their own projects and work habits as well as brainstorming strategies to help achieve their goals with sessions led by DSU’s Quadia Muhammad and Talaysha Lingham, and UD’s Maria Pippidis and  Jennifer Volk. 

Michelle DiFebo Freeman gave a moving speech about “Why We Do What We Do”. Freeman forged through a cruel amount of personal tragedy and adversity to become CEO of the Carl M. Freeman Companies, president and chairman of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation and Chair of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation. She encouraged attendees to be present in the moment, find something that matters and “move your feet for others”.

Celebrating the people who do just that, UD Extension Director Michelle Rodgers presented the Friends of Extension Award recognitions. The honor is the highest recognition presented to a non-Extension layperson, business or organization — designed to recognize truly outstanding support and personal involvement in Extension efforts.

“The Friends of Extension Award is a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge individuals and organizations that make possible and enhance our work,” said UD Cooperative Extension Director Michelle Rodgers. “Extension is truly about partnerships and relationships.”

2019 awardees

Ed Gootzait was trained as a Master Financial Management volunteer with Virginia Cooperative Extension. Upon relocating to Delaware, he immediately connected with the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension to offer his expertise. Gootzait has conducted more than 35 workshops, staffed educational displays and connected Extension to other organizations in an effort to strengthen its community presence and address the training needs of staff and educational needs of clientele those organizations serve. Gootzait helped to expand the financial wellness and consumer education programming offered in New Castle County by offering programs at libraries, community centers and non-profit organizations. He remains committed to providing research-based information and has been willing to attend training in content areas and is dedicated to keeping up to date.

Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH) has long-been involved in agriculture throughout the state and maintained a strong relationship with Extension. Located in the City of Wilmington, DCH has been extremely generous in offering its facility and provided excellent opportunities for Extension staff and volunteers to reach new clientele, and to train and provide resources to volunteers, industry professionals and urban communities. DCH and Extension worked together to establish and provide leadership to the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition. In addition to the coalition, Master Gardeners have represented Extension while assisting with DCH’s Urban Landscape Program and a trove of other educational programs and special events. Since 2009, the DCH has offered one of Delaware’s only green jobs training programs for unemployed, underemployed and previously incarcerated men and women; this program hires and trains men and women for entry-level positions in the landscaping and horticulture industry. Extension has been fortunate to participate in this training with specialists and agents working with DCH to develop hands-on training in sustainable landscapes, greenhouse and nursery operations, and integrated pest management.

Delaware Farm Bureau (DFB) has partnered with Delaware 4-H to benefit youth in a myriad of ways. From ensuring that the Mobile Ag Lab is available for 4-H camps up and down the state, to meet STEM education needs to offering clubs fundraising opportunities at the in its ever-popular food both at the Delaware State Fair, the Delaware Farm Bureau understands the value of hands-on work. At the end of the day, perhaps the largest impact has been through its vital role as a steady and reliable pipeline for youth and volunteer membership. This unique partnership has been mutually beneficial for both organizations as longtime Delaware Farm Bureau families have made for generations of active Delaware 4-H club members — working their way through the program from youth club members to adult volunteers.  

MidAtlantic Farm Credit (MAFC) has provided both sponsorship and knowledgeable speakers for many Extension programs over the years. MAFC personnel have acted as facilitators, provided content through in-person presentations and served in an advisory capacity for many of the programs offered by Cooperative Extension. A constant champion in promoting the benefits of Extension programs to farmers, MAFC supported a litany of Extensions programs, including Delaware Ag Week, MidAtlantic Women in Ag, Annie’s Project, New and Existing Poultry Grower training, and the Health and Farm Vitality Forum. Company staff also make themselves available for presentations where they provide guidance on sound financial practices for the wellbeing of all program participants. MAFC’s commitment to farmer success and sustainability in the First State is undisputed.

Delaware State University also honored its 2019 awardees Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Audrey Scott-Hynson.

Extension representatives present the Friends of Extension Award to MidAtlantic Farm Credit.
Sydney Riggi and Georgie Cartanza (left) and Michelle Rodgers (right) Kurt Fuchs and Katie Ward of MidAtlantic Farm Credit.