MU Extension Insider: news for employees and retirees
June 15, 2008

MU Extension unveils regional staffing plan

University of Missouri Extension recently completed a statewide Program Staffing Plan, which calls for 240 regional faculty positions and provides direction for filling positions. The plan also outlines decision-making processes and establishes targets for position by program area.

“Program staffing decisions are long-term, strategic decisions that are critical to the future of University of Missouri Extension,” said Michael Ouart, MU vice provost and director of cooperative extension. “Based on our current fiscal plans, we believe that the organization can sustain 240 full-time equivalent positions as we move forward.”

The plan will replace the process known as “incremental fill” and will expedite the decision process to fill vacant positions by providing direction for staffing decisions, while allowing flexibility to make needed changes.

The plan identifies a target number of positions for each program area in the region. Regional directors will continue working with program directors, extension council members, faculty and staff in implementing the regional plan. Because regions are at different stages in their plans, the process will vary among regions. All regions will have their plans completed by Sept. 30.


YouZeum opens doors to adventures in good health

Ann Cohen, left, and Jessica Kovarik look at Phun-Physiology, a 16-foot tall audio kinetic sculpture representing food and blood rolling through the incredible human body. Steve Morse photo/Cooperative Media Group

The opening of the Youzeum, Missouri’s first health education museum, was a milestone event for Ann Cohen, associate state nutrition specialist.

Cohen nurtured the project like a child for 18 years, and the ribbon-cutting ceremony in early May was graduation day for the long-awaited museum, having gone from a lofty goal to a brick-and-mortar reality.

“We’re lucky that Ann stuck with it because the community has an amazing asset that wouldn’t be here if she didn’t keep pushing,” said Gwen Robbins, the YouZeum’s executive director.

The YouZeum, located in the former federal office building in downtown Columbia, has been a labor of love that fits perfectly with her personal passion and professional expertise for promoting healthy lifestyles.

“Health is a subject that is lived,” Cohen said. “The Youzeum’s exhibits offer real-life experiences so people can explore the concepts of healthy choices and see how they can apply those choices.”

Visitors can meander through more than 25 interactive and hands-on exhibits that explore nutrition, physical activity, anatomy, brain power, pregnancy, medical care and health professions.

In the YouZeum's ER. visitors can check out a real ambulance and play doctor, nurse or paramedic on virtual patients.
In the YouZeum's ER. visitors can check out a real ambulance and play doctor, nurse or paramedic on virtual patients. Steve Morse photo/MU Cooperative Media Group

From a talking vending machine to phytochemical superheroes to an 11-foot banana, Cohen believes the exhibits will be memorable to visitors.

“We believe you’ll remember that experience with the talking vending machine the next time you’re making a choice at another vending machine,” Cohen said.

As an MU faculty member, Cohen was able to tap the expertise of her colleagues, including Kevin Fritsche, associate professor of nutrition, and Ali Hussam, computer project manager, along with students, to develop the exhibits.

Jessica Kovarik, an extension associate in nutrition, was one of those students. At a recent tour of the Youzeum, Kovarik said, “I can see the ideas I researched and the scripts I wrote come together and see how things got fleshed out.”

Cohen also tapped into the community to support the project, creating a board of influential and respected citizens to promote the project and help raise funds.

In fact, throughout the project’s development, Cohen was rarely in the public eye, preferring to let others take the spotlight.

“I have a whole bunch of ideas, but I can’t do them all,” Cohen said. “But I can show people that vision, and I can engage them in carrying it forward.”

Kovarik said Cohen’s relative anonymity is a testament to her philosophy that the Youzeum is a community asset.

“Making it a community project makes it something that everybody can get involved in and be proud to be a part of,” Kovarik said.

Explore the Youzeum


Council members to see broader university mission

County extension council members will see how the components of the land-grant mission come together for the benefit of their communities during the annual Council to Campus Conference, June 27 and 28.

The two-day event will bring council representatives from across the state to the MU campus to increase their understanding of the University’s teaching, research and service missions. So far, 50 councils members have signed up for the conference.

Bioenergy, entrepreneurship, pasture-based dairy and healthy lifestyle promotion are among the session topics. Council members also will have a chance to learn how MU High School provides distance education across the state and the nation, and to hear about Lincoln University’s extension programs.

“When council members come to campus, they see that the University is much bigger than the extension office,” said Tony DeLong, county council coordinator.

Speakers include MU Chancellor Brady Deaton, Vice Provost Michael Ouart and Athletic Director Mike Alden.

Planning committee members include Rick Mammen, SW Region director; Sheldon Teopke, MU Extension State Council member; Bev Coberly, off-campus operations director; Mary Leuci, community development program director; Debbie Robison, associate vice provost for extension; Joe Horner, MU beef and dairy extension associate; Erica Lovercamp and Jewel Coffman, MU Conference Office; and DeLong.


Urban or rural, consumers value local foods

By Bob Thomas, MU Senior Information Specialist

While farmers markets may be more popular and viable in urban areas, rural communities still have opportunities to create successful local food systems, according to a newly published study.

The study, appearing in the journal Southern Rural Sociology, looked at six Illinois communities to understand their acceptance of farmers markets.

“We found that consumers value locally grown food despite location, but seek it out through different channels,” said Sarah Hultine, EC community development specialist and a study co-author. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach. It requires creativity in developing local markets that build on current shopping behaviors of consumers.”

The researchers studied four rural and two urban markets. Only one of the four rural communities had what the researchers considered a vibrant farmers market.

In urban farmers markets, success often comes because markets provide a public space for consumers to interact with farmers and other consumers while buying fresh, high-quality produce, Hultine said.

Rural consumers, however, may not need the same sort of public space for community interaction and will focus more on buying food from individual local farmers they know and trust.

The one successful rural farmers market studied was Metamora, which focused on connecting with other downtown businesses, including local restaurants and a museum.

Farmers in rural Fairbury worked with a local grocery store to create an in-store venue for their produce, resulting in several thousand dollars in sales in each of the past four years.

“This market for locally grown food serves as a successful example of the alternative markets rural communities can create beyond a traditional farmers market,” Hultine said.

The study shows that local food systems are more successful when they address the needs of the whole community and take into account existing shopping behaviors and consumption decisions within the community.

The findings of the study can be relevant in the development of new farmers markets here in Missouri, which has seen strong growth, with almost 140 markets now across the state.

See: “Produce Sections, Town Squares, and Farm Stands: Comparing Local Food Systems in Community Context,” Southern Rural Sociology


VISTA applications being accepted for 2008-09

Eight AmeriCorps*VISTA positions are available to promote entrepreneurship in local communities through University of Missouri Extension

Any nonprofit or governmental entity can apply directly to sponsor a VISTA volunteer, said Steve Henness, 4-H extension assistant.

“We just ask that applicants contact an MU Extension faculty member about being advisor,” Henness said. “Supervising is done by the organizations themselves.”

Another program change is expansion of the target audience beyond youth. “MU Extension is partnering with the AmeriCorps*VISTA program this year and next to support a wide range of community economic and entrepreneurial development programming,” Henness said.

Communities may propose VISTAs positions to assist with one or more of the following program strategies:

The cost to communities is $3,000 per position per year, excluding in-kind expenses for supervision, office space, computer, phone, etc. In return, communities receive a paid, full-time community service professional to help build the capacity of community entrepreneurial programs and organizations.

VISTA applications and information


MU Fire and Rescue Training Institute conducts swift-water training at amusement parks. Rides simulate real-life conditions.

Swift thinking

Using amusement park water rides, MU Fire and Rescue Training Insitute prepares emergency responders for flash flood rescues.
Watch to learn more.

News Briefs

Beck honored by presidential service council

Bruce Beck, SE agronomy specialist, received the President’s Volunteer Service Award for his work to introduce new rice varieties to farmers in the Middle East last year.  The award was presented by President Bush’s Council on Service and Civic Participation.

Beck’s 2007 trip to Azerbajian was funded by the U.S. Agency for Internation Development. During his two-week assignment, Beck met with a local rice farmer providing expertise to improve his production. Beck also provided samples of unpatented rice varieties from Missouri and other states.

Wideman speaks
at earthquake meeting

Frank Wideman, SE natural resources engineer, was a panelist at the four-state New Madrid Fault Region Earthquake Preparedness Conference, May 6-7, sponsored by the extension services in Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky and Arkansas. Wideman took part in panels on community preparedness and communication during an emergency. The conference, held in Metropolis, Ill., was held just days after a quake along the Wabash Fault shook several Midwestern communities. Topics focused on helping communities plan for a disaster, including evacuation routes, emergency kits and utility information.

Master Gardeners to meet in Branson

University of Missouri Extension’s annual Master Gardener Conference will be Sept. 26-28, 2008.

The event includes advanced workshops; tours of nature areas, exotic gardens and little-known secrets of the Ozarks; and the trademark entertainment of this popular tourist destination.

Individuals can register by mail or online.

Early registration for Galaxy III ends June 15

The Joint Council of Extension Professionals will host Galaxy III, Sept. 15-19, in Indianapolis. The conference features nationally known speakers, concurrent and poster sessions, educational tours, exhibits and community service projects.

Individuals who register by June 15 can receive a $100 discount on the conference fee. After the 15th, the registration fee will be $495.

Conference organizers also are seeking volunteers for a variety of activities.