Universities Uniting by Paul Fisher

Universities Uniting by Paul Fisher

Writing this essay reminded me of “A Christmas Carol.” There are different futures for Extension depending which path we collectively choose to take.

When the Agricultural Extension Service was created by Congress in 1914, agriculture was a dominant player in the U.S. economy. Recent trends in global food supply, biofuel and sustainability have led to a “rediscovering” of agriculture by the U.S. media. But agricultural production now represents less than 1 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in our service-based economy.

If our industry values the outreach and applied research components of Extension in the future, we need to lobby for limited resources against other worthwhile competing societal needs. In the Spanish language there is an expression–no llora, no mama–and it will take a strong collective voice (llorar) to keep Extension services as a high policy priority (la mama).

I have been fortunate to work with growers in several countries. In most places outside the U.S., there never has been an Extension service, or the Extension program has been eliminated through budget cuts.

Here are the consequences: Growers become accustomed to a “user-pays” approach for any service, including information. A few large growers travel widely overseas to attend educational events such as OFA Short Course and Horti Fair. There, Extension agents still exist and growers hire private consultants or develop in-house R&D programs.

Many smaller growers are stuck in time without access to new information. Businesses become secretive without the Extension framework to share knowledge. Industry fills the void, mainly through technical managers and salesmen who provide good quality information but ultimately must sell product.

The process of moving new research technology from the lab to industry starts to break down. Research splits between long-term, laboratory-based projects and short-term product testing (spray and pray). The middle ground, developing research solutions to real industry problems, becomes lost.
Last year, I visited the renowned Stockbridge Technology Center, a greenhouse research facility in England where scientists were still conducting good applied research and seeking funding in the era of user pays, but their largest project focused on health benefits of marijuana.

OK, enough doom and gloom. I am actually optimistic about the future. Many states have replaced retired floriculture faculty, and there is a new crop of capable young faculty hired recently in places like Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan and New York.

We have to be more creative about funding our Extension programs, and some leading companies and organizations are stepping up to be very supportive. For example, a group of university faculty and companies that share an interest in water quality has started the Water Education Alliance for Horticulture Extension program on water recirculation and treatment.

Working with groups of competing companies reduces bias, helps prioritize scientist efforts and taps into a huge amount of industry knowledge. For example, way more Ph.D.’s specializing in media and nutrition are in industry compared to nutrition experts in universities. These days, all my workshops have sponsorships and a mix of university and industry expert presenters.

We all have to get used to publicity for Extension workshops and publications looking like a NASCAR sports car. As university professors are faced with the need for near 100 percent industry funding of operating costs, we strive to walk a fine line to maintain objectivity in our programs.

Leave a Reply

More From State of the Industry...
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

February 25, 2015

National Garden Bureau Designates 2015 As Year Of The Gaillardia

Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and a long-blooming pollinator plant. It is fitting that the National Garden Bureau has specified 2015 as The Year of the Gaillardia.

Read More
IPPS Sharing Plant Production Knowledge Globally Logo

February 25, 2015

International Plant Propagators Western Region Sets Annual Meeting Date

The annual meet for the International Plant Propagators' Society (IPPS) Western Region has been set for this September. It will take place September 23 to 26 in Modesto, Calif., and will include learning sessions, tours to local nurseries, a research poster display and poster presentations, various networking opportunities and an awards banquet to close the event.

Read More
Evolvulus Blue My Mind

February 24, 2015

Blue Ribbon Bloomers For Greenhouse Production

Grow what consumers want! Surveys show that blue is one of the top preferred colors of today’s consumers. Here are twelve top recommended blue-flowering Proven Winners annuals and perennials to suit your spring production cycle.

Read More
Latest Stories
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

February 2, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 State Of The In…

The Greenhouse Grower 2015 State Of The Industry Whitepaper includes all the results of the survey, including comparisons on 2014 sales to past years, details on how 2015 production volume and prices will compare to 2014, crops that growers will increase and decrease production on, where growers stand on using neonicotinoids on crops, how many growers will pursue growing medical marijuana and more.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Benchmarks: Let’s Change Our Story

It's a new year. Time for our industry to change how consumers perceive plants by creating a new reality where plants are valued for more than their physical beauty.

Read More

January 21, 2015

AFE Wins Platinum MarCom Award For “Murder, Sex a…

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) took home its fourth award for the animated awareness video "Murder, Sex and Greed." The organization also recently announced that there are two new members on its board of trustees.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 19, 2015

2015 State Of The Industry: Current Green Industry Tren…

Demand for green industry products and services is forecasted to increase in coming years as the housing market rebounds.

Read More

January 14, 2015

Terra Nigra Joins DNA Green Group

DNA Green Group will be expanding its range of cut flowers by incorporating Terra Nigra, a company specializing in breeding and propagation of gerberas and roses.

Read More

January 14, 2015

Florensis Receives Horticultural Entrepreneur Award

During the January 7, 2015 award ceremony in the Keukenhof, in Lisse, Netherlands, Florensis received the Horticultural Entrepreneur Award. Florensis was one of four nominated companies, which also included Arcadia BV, Artemis and Martens Asperges.

Read More
AmericanHort

January 9, 2015

AmericanHort Celebrates Its First Birthday

AmericanHort was formally launched one year ago on January 1, 2014, and the association is celebrating numerous successes of the first year.

Read More
Carol Miller

January 7, 2015

We’re All In This Together

Growers and retailers have a common goal — to serve customers better. In this new column, Greenhouse Grower will take a look at ways growers and retailers can work together to take advantage of profit opportunities and better meet customer needs.

Read More

January 7, 2015

Industry Speaks Out Against “Waters Of The U.S.” Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule change to the Clean Water Act, known as “waters of the U.S.,” has the potential to disrupt normal business practices for growers across the country.

Read More

January 7, 2015

Students Tackle Real-Life Challenges At National FFA Fl…

Top prize winners put skills learned in the classroom to the test at the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Floriculture Career Development Event.

Read More
Lesley Judd

January 7, 2015

2014 Meister Scholarship Awarded To Ph.D Student

The Richard T. Meister Scholarship was awarded to Lesley Judd, a graduate student with a passion for horticulture and a desire to pass her knowledge along through teaching.

Read More

January 6, 2015

39th Annual Today’s Horticulture Symposium Will Be Febr…

The Professional Gardener Alumni Association (PGAA) will hold the 39th Annual Today’s Horticulture Symposium program will be on February 6, 2015 from 8 a.m. or 4 p.m. in the Ballroom at Longwood Gardens, and will feature an array of engaging speakers.

Read More
Shawn McBurney

January 6, 2015

Society Of American Florists Hires New Lobbyist

Shawn McBurney joined the Society of American Florists' (SAF) staff starting January 5 as the new senior director of government relations.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 5, 2015

Growers Are Optimistic For A Strong Year In 2015

Greenhouse Grower’s State Of The Industry survey reveals that growers are being cautious about the inputs they use, and they’re worried about input costs and regulation, but enthusiastic about the rebounding economy.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 5, 2015

The 2015 State Of The Greenhouse Industry: Numbers At A…

Greenhouse Grower's 2015 State Of The Industry Survey shows some promising trends for the new year. Here's a look at the greenhouse market for 2015.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 5, 2015

Suppliers Will Increase Prices, Grower Education For 20…

Vendors' expectations are high for 2015, according to their responses on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 State Of The Industry Survey.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

December 31, 2014

2015 State Of The Industry: Major Changes In Washington…

Immigration, tax and regulatory reforms are a few important issues to watch in 2015. Still, the horticulture industry is on the threshold of change and has reason to be optimistic.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

December 31, 2014

2015 State Of The Industry: 2015 Brings More Debate On …

Pollinator health dominated regulatory discussions in 2014 and will continue to do so in 2015. Expect to see another busy year of regulatory changes and research.

Read More