To say that things have changed over the past month would be an understatement.

While we all share the optimism and excitement for warmer weather, that annual tradition pales in comparison to our general concern for public health or navigating the best practices for biosecurity and an age of social distancing. As we as a community adapt to these lifestyle changes, it’s worth mentioning that UMN Extension in Nicollet County is adapting during this period as well in order to deliver the unbiased, research-based information for which we are known.

The University of Minnesota is following recommendations for social distancing and all in-person Extension events have been canceled through May 15. Although these events, programs and activities are canceled, we in Extension are enacting methods and tapping resources that can help disseminate important, relevant information to our communities. Since it’s conception, the number of resources on UMN Extension’s website, such as blog posts, articles, fact sheets and podcasts has increased dramatically.

This wealth of knowledge, for both local and statewide interests, can be found online at extension.umn.edu. While we stay home this spring, check out our website and peruse around; you’ll find a myriad of topics and possibly answers to questions you didn’t know you had. Extension is offering several learning opportunities online as well; for further information about Extension’s online courses and events, visit: https://extension.umn.edu/courses-and-events.

While these virtual resources are becoming more and more common in daily life, it’s important to recognize that not everyone has the same internet accessibility. For example, based on the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture, about 17% of Nicollet County’s 1,100 farms did not have reliable access to the internet, and further yet, some rural internet connections may not support the demands of streaming or video conferencing. In our role as local Extension educators, we take pride in our ability to accommodate the needs of the community, and will continue to be of service beyond online resources.

Please contact me, Jason Ertl, at ertlx019@umn.edu, or 507-934-7828, if you have questions, concerns, or ideas for future Extension work in the area. As we turn the corner into the spring season, tune into local publications, like the St. Peter Herald, for the latest in agriculture news, updates on local planting progress, and new findings based on UMN research.

In closing, I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer up the reminder to follow preventive and protective recommendations set forth by Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to combat COVID-19. It may seem to be getting overly repetitive at this point, but the importance of things like washing hands, covering your cough and staying home can’t be understated. Also, consider checking in on family, friends and neighbors, especially those of advanced age. A significant number of our local farmers are of the 65 and over age group and deemed highly susceptible. Without their critical work on the farms and fields, we as a community wouldn’t get to enjoy the abundant, safe and wholesome food available to us.

Jason Ertl is the Extension Educator-Ag Production Systems for Nicollet and Sibley counties.

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