By Kristin Stephens, Larimer County Commissioner
Where can you get information about your lawn or garden, sign up for 4-H, preservation or food safety class, attend a webinar on Radon, join a civic leadership program, or find natural disaster resources? Surprisingly, you can find all these programs and many more at Larimer County Extension.
Larimer County Extension is a partnership between Colorado State University and Larimer County. This partnership makes it possible to bring research-backed information from Colorado State University to everyone in Larimer County. Larimer County Extension has served the residents of Colorado for nearly 100 years, and they are still going strong.
We often hear that Extension is the best-kept secret in the county, but we want to change that. Increasing Extension’s visibility is one of the priorities identified during their recent strategic planning process. We want all our residents to know about the many, mostly free services provided by Extension. Many people are familiar with the weekly Farmer’s Market which runs from May-October at the Larimer County Courthouse, but you might not know that Market Days purchases local produce and distributes this food to low-income seniors throughout the county. Extension not only provides help with your lawn and garden but also provides a certified gardener program so you can be your expert. Want to learn how to open a business from your kitchen? Extension offers Cottage Food Safety training.
Last year, Extension agents taught 41 Food Preservation & Safety Classes, 59 Health & Wellness Classes, 35 Agriculture & Natural Resources Classes, 81 Yard & Garden Classes, 11 Family Training, and Leadership Workshops, and 5 Mindfulness for Community Leaders Workshops.
Extension is always looking for new ways to serve the community. With that in mind, Larimer County Extension recently completed its 5-year Strategic Guidance Plan. They used a community survey tool to ask Larimer County residents what services were most needed in our community. The data helped them identify areas where they are actively contributing, areas where they could partner, and areas where we have gaps. Through a prioritization exercise, they identified 6 top-tier areas to focus on in the coming years including mental health and stress management for youth and adults, emergency preparedness, nutrition, and healthy cooking, life skills and leadership for youth, outreach, and marketing, and family financials.
One of the newest programs Extension will be unveiling is the 4-H Juntos After School Program. Juntos, which is slated to begin this Fall at Poudre High School, will engage Latino students and their parents with the goal of improving graduation rates and building a bridge to higher education. The Juntos program is made up of four components: family engagement nights aimed at educating youth and families about pathways to higher education, Juntos 4-H programming designed specifically for Latino youth, weekly one-on-one success coaching/mentoring, and Summer Academy, a preview of the on-campus college experience. Extension hopes to grow this program so that it can serve students in school districts across the entire county.
Larimer County Extension serves our community in so many ways. You can learn more about Extension by visiting their new website larimer.gov/extension. And don’t forget to attend the Larimer County Fair and Rodeo from August 5-9 where you can visit the 4-H projects at the McKee building and learn more about the programs that Extension has to offer.
Kristin Stephens is a Larimer County commissioner representing all of Larimer County.