COLUMBUS - People who have questions on topics ranging from gardening and crop production to personal finance and youth programs have a new "Ask a County Expert" resource from Ohio State University Extension for answers.
"The whole idea is to make our information more accessible and expand our scope," said Jerry Thomas, leader of innovation and change for Ohio State University Leadership Center for the departments of Extension and Agriculture Communication, Education and Leadership.
"The Ask an Expert tool makes it much easier for clientele to ask us questions directly," Thomas said. "If a county doesn't have that particular expertise, we can access Extension personnel across the state and across the country. It will really help us leverage our resources."
Thomas said the question service helps Extension keep up with people's use of technology.
"Ohio State University Extension and our director, Dr. Keith Smith, realized that we needed to extend OSU Extension to where our audiences find and consume needed information," he said. "That is increasingly online so we wanted to make it easy for them to submit questions and find solutions right from our web pages."
Each of Ohio's 88 counties has a website, where people can find the question link.
To find one, type the name of the county in a browser, followed by "osu.edu." For example, the Extension office in Seneca County is seneca.osu.edu.
When someone submits a question, it goes to a central location, and then is directed to the person with the expertise to best answer it.
Most of us don't know what questions we will have until we have an issue to address," Thomas said. "We hope people use this as a starting point to reach a solution."
Common questions asked to Extension personnel involve home lawn and garden, agriculture, natural resources, family and home issues such as nutrition, diabetes and family budgeting, as well as 4-H and youth development programs and community development issues such as economic development, land use, leadership development and entrepreneurship.
"For northern Ohio, we also deal with issues about Lake Erie," Thomas said.
Questions answered will become part of "frequently asked questions" on eXtension (pronounced "e-extension") online at www.extension.org, a national network.
The tool was developed by the national eXtension team and is funded by all of the Extension services in the United States.
The team fosters collaboration to develop research and educational materials, providing professional development for Extension professionals, and developing tools to help Extension work differently.
The Ask an Expert online tool arrives during the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act of 1862, which established land-grant universities in every state to promote education in agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts and other practical occupations at a time when much of higher education was focused on learning Latin, Greek, rhetoric and other elements of a classical education.
In 1914, the Smith-Lever Act formed the Cooperative Extension System, formalizing a partnership between land-grant colleges and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to "extend" the work of the universities beyond the traditional academic student to residents throughout the state.
In Ohio, OSU Extension offers educational resources and programming in four program areas: agriculture and natural resources, including environmental issues as well as horticulture, yard and garden; family and consumer sciences, including nutrition, food safety, family relations and personal finance; community development; and 4-H youth development.
To contact Seneca County's Extension office by phone, call (419) 447-9722.