Monday, May 14, 2007

"Extension" in Ontario and Survey Progress

Contributing more than $25 billion a year to the provincial economy, Agriculture is Canada’s third largest industry. Yet, in Ontario, a gap between this essential industry and the consumer base has formed, resulting in constant difficulties in the agricultural sector.

Agricultural extension, as defined by wikipedia, is “the application of scientific research and new knowledge to agricultural practices through farmer education.” Further dissected, extension, on its own, is the passing of knowledge from educational institutes to users of the information.

According to the Canadian Society of Extensions, extension is a system of non-formal education. As such, it is a field of professional education aimed at:
  • teaching people, in their own context and life situations, how to identify and assess their own needs and problems;
  • helping them acquire the knowledge and skills required to cope effectively with those needs and problems.
  • inspiring them to action.

The government phased out agricultural extension from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food in the 1990s, and extension officers have disappeared as a result. Although the agri-food sector is one of the most important in Ontario, government support and agricultural education/extension initiatives are lacking, if not non-existent, which results in a much larger challenge of increasing awareness.

Presently, there are a small number of extension divisions and programs in universities throughout Canada. A need for agricultural extension, especially in Ontario, still exists. With reference to the proposed Agricultural Communications Education Centre, it is our intent that extension practices be integrated and implemented to better service the industry, students and the users of the knowledge.

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