MU Extension and Engagement Year in Review • 2019-2020

Flooding. Tornadoes. A worldwide pandemic. We've had our share of challenges this past fiscal year. But through it all, the faculty and staff at MU Extension continued to serve Missourians in new and innovative ways.

The last year has not been what we expected, but in the face of great challenges, we accomplished some great things together: The Community Emergency Management Program provided helpful guidance during and after the flood of 2019, new audiences learned about Missouri 4-H and its programming through Facebook Live demonstrations, we connected producers and consumers through a new online tool, and we continued to work with Missourians to make progress on our three grand challenges: economic opportunity, educational access and health and well-being.

Please explore a few of our highlights from FY2020 in the stories below.


Missouri's Grand Challenges

Everything we do is focused on improving the lives of Missourians by aligning people, partnerships and programs to support economic opportunity, educational access and health and well-being.
Economic opportunity

Business and Community Development Program

Missouri businesses, at any stage of development, look to MU Extension for guidance on finances, product development, marketing, legal regulations, taxes and more.

For every $1 of funding received, the Business Development Program returns $120 of impact for Missouri.

The Business Development Program includes three federally grant-funded programs:
  • Missouri Small Business Development Centers
  • Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center
  • Mid-America Trade Adjustment Assistance Center

MU Extension improves communities by connecting them with university resources to increase their economic potential and develop successful leaders.

In 2019, over 51,000 Missourians participated in community development programming in the areas of leadership and organizational development, economic viability, and diversity and inclusion.

Educational access

Missouri College Advising Corps (MCAC)

MCAC hires recent graduates to work in 48 partner high schools that have a high percentage of first-generation-college, low-income students at risk of not going to college. Advisors help students navigate college planning and preparation, applications and financial aid processes. MU Extension’s goal is to increase the percentage of high school graduates participating in postsecondary education from 66% to 70% by 2023.

Last fiscal year, MCAC advisors assisted 6,083 seniors with submitting 15,503 college applications. Advisors also ensured that 4,539 seniors completed their financial aid applications.

Health and well-being

Stay Strong, Stay Healthy (SSSH)

SSSH provides older adults access to a safe, structured and effective exercise program to build muscle and increase bone density, thus decreasing frailty, osteoporosis and the risk of falls.

Last year, 500 seniors participated in the program.

In the fall of 2019, researchers from the MU School of Medicine and MU Extension teamed up to study whether strength training can really make a difference in older adults. The results showed that participation in the eight-week program is more effective than volume matched walking groups.

“We found that the Stay Strong, Stay Healthy participants improved significantly in their strength, in their balance and in their sleep quality.” Dana Duren, director of orthopaedic research at the MU School of Medicine


MU Extension faculty and staff collaborate with partners both on and off campus to serve Missourians and improve lives. Below are just a few examples of the partnerships from last fiscal year.

STEM Internship

Eight college students were part of this summer’s inaugural class of the MU Integrated STEM Internship program. The program began with a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to prepare college students for careers or graduate studies in fields related to agriculture and rural communities, food production, and nutrition and health. Six interns were funded through NIFA and two through the MU Extension agriculture and environment program.

The nine-week program offered hands-on experiences working with mentors in MU research settings and the opportunity to learn from county-based MU Extension faculty working in areas related to their interests or career paths.
“By pairing students with extension field faculty as well as working with their campus mentor, the interns experience not only how research is conducted but also how research is translated into extension educational programs that engage Missouri citizens." Rebecca Mott, assistant extension professor
The paid internship concluded with interns presenting their research activities at MU’s Summer Undergraduate Research Forum.
“My biggest takeaway is seeing how much MU Extension does for the state of Missouri. I have seen firsthand how they are involved in every county and help out local farmers." Jake Stringer, agribusiness major at Southeast Missouri State University
Mizzou Alternative Breaks

In 2014, Mizzou Alternative Breaks announced a partnership with MU Extension and pledged to bring service trips to all of Missouri’s 114 counties and the city of St. Louis by 2020. They met their goal in March 2019.

To keep the momentum going, MU officials announced that MU Extension has committed $10,350 to Mizzou Alternative Breaks to provide scholarships for 90 students with financial need to participate in statewide service trips.

“Mizzou Alternative Breaks has a long history of sending passionate, service-minded students all over the world to serve. They bring that same passion in their work giving back to the state of Missouri as shown by the fact they met their statewide goal ahead of schedule.” Marshall Stewart, vice chancellor for extension and engagement
Service trips have included working at the Ronald McDonald House in Greene County, completing conservation projects in Mark Twain State Park, providing health assistance in Butler and Chariton counties, and painting a homeless shelter in Callaway County.
4-H Feeding Missouri

Through food drives, fundraising, volunteerism and outreach, 4-H clubs across Missouri provided nearly 300,000 meals to feed hungry families — exceeding their 250,000-meal goal for 2020.

The second annual 4-H Feeding Missouri food drive, in partnership with Missouri Farmers Care Drive to Feed Kids, ran Jan. 1 through April 30.

“The most important part of this drive was the work our 4-H'ers did to raise awareness about hunger in Missouri." Lupita Fabregas, director, Missouri 4-H
Top left: The Lafayette County 4-H Council donated 241.2 pounds of food for the drive. Top right: Lucas Alexander, from Fordland 4-H Club in Webster County, made a 4-H Feeding Missouri box to collect monetary donations. Bottom left: Hitt 4-H Clover Kid member Gavin Edwards donates food items to the Corder "little food pantry." Bottom right: Lincoln County 4-H'ers put out Feeding Missouri signs to raise awareness for the food drive.
MU Trulaske College of Business Professional EDGE projects provide experiential learning opportunities for students. In the 2019-2020 inaugural year, students were matched with professional projects through MU Extension and the MU Office of Service-Learning. Their goal was to address an assigned business problem or opportunity and develop solutions for Missouri businesses.

More than 600 MU students have worked in dozens of communities across the state to help small businesses find solutions and opportunities.

Examples include:

  • Assessing the feasibility of converting an old bread factory into a microbrewery
  • Proposing a food truck park next to a soccer complex
  • Marketing a cattle ranch as a profitable Airbnb rental
  • Assisting Jefferson City businesses with post-tornado recovery strategies

Missouri SBDC for Agriculture, Food and Forestry

Missouri Small Business Development Centers, MU Extension agriculture and environment specialists and MU Extension agricultural economists will combine their expertise and resources to serve Missouri agriculture.

“The extension specialists’ local relationships and expertise, combined with the Missouri SBDC’s business knowledge and resources, can provide a powerful new level of service to agriculture businesses facing today’s challenges.” David Steffes, Missouri SBDC director of agricultural business services

Developed in the summer of 2020, the program focuses on agriculture and business development in three concentration areas:

  • Livestock (milk and meat)
  • Commercial horticulture and crops
  • Food processing and forestry products

MU Extension in action

Serving those in need

Missouri Flood of 2019

Throughout much of 2019, Missourians dealt with flooding. Farmers were unable to plant their crops, families were displaced and businesses were destroyed.

MU Extension faculty and staff provided education and technical assistance to individuals and families, local governments, schools and organizations during and after the flood of 2019.

“MU Extension serves as a key resource for Missourians, emergency services and public officials because we are part of the local communities.” Conne Burnham, director, Community Emergency Management Program

Serving business owners

The Missouri Small Business Development Centers help businesses in every stage of their lifecycle. Missouri SBDC experts are conveniently located across Missouri to provide assistance and host events on a variety of business topics.

When Kayla Dennis, owner of U.S. Essential Supply and Services, LLC, needed help with her business, she contacted Lynette Watson, regional director of the Missouri SBDC in St. Louis. Watson assisted Dennis with finances, payroll, strategic planning and how to improve day-to-day operations.

As her business grows, Dennis appreciates the array of services and support that SBDC offers.

“(The SBDC) has access to lots of data and works with many types of businesses. They have a perspective that is much broader than mine, and that’s something I really value.” Kayla Dennis

From 2017 to 2019, Missouri SBDC helped small businesses increases sales by more than $234 million.

Serving producers and consumers

The Missouri Food Finder

This new online tool easily connects Missouri consumers with people growing and selling food in their region — helping businesses thrive and families find nutritious, locally produced options.

Since its launch on April 15, 2020, the Missouri Food Finder has had over 22,000 page views, 14,000 active users and 278 producers listed.

Serving women in agriculture

MU Extension's goal is to double the value of Missouri agriculture by 2030 while sustaining the state's natural resources. It's a big goal and to reach it, the faculty are always adapting and thinking of unique ways to reach new audiences.

Almost 60 women attend the 2019 Farm, Family & ME conference in Jefferson City.

Farm, Family & ME is an educational and networking event for women who are involved in farming in a multitude of ways. In 2019, Missouri First Lady Teresa Parson and Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn kicked off the event.

From the Tailgate's Jamie Johansen featured the summit in one of her episodes.


Pearls of Production is a two-day conference for women involved in livestock production. Day One consists of classroom learning where participants learn from key industry leaders on livestock production topics. On Day Two, participants get hands-on experience in breakout sessions in beef, forages, swine, small ruminant or small business. Last year, 42 women attended the conference.

An attendee practices taking a tissue sample from a calf's ear during the 2019 Pearls of Production conference.

MU Extension helps woman farmer grow cattle and hay operation.

Pictured: Hay testing is a critical part of the hay and beef operation of rancher Marcia Moreland, left. MU Extension livestock specialist Eldon Cole, right, helps take samples of her fifth cutting of alfalfa this year.

Last year, more than 300 women farmers participated in online learning opportunities, social media groups and in-person conferences and events.

Serving Amish, Mennonite and German Baptist communities

Missouri is home to more than 9,000 Amish people across 38 settlements. Since communication by phone or online is a barrier to reaching these individuals, MU Extension specialists find new ways to offer resources.

MU plant diagnostic clinic helps Amish producers in Clark

On Friday mornings at the Clark Produce Auction, MU Extension agronomist Dhruba Dhakal sets up a table, plant posters and an MU Extension sign.

Pictured: In September 2019, more than 500 adults and youths, most of them from plain clothes communities, attended Farm Safety Day. Attendees were given youth safety vests, participated in health screenings and learned about farm safety.

This past fiscal year, MU Extension agriculture and environment specialists served over 1,500 individuals from the Amish, Mennonite and German Baptist communities through on-farm visits, mail, phone or in-person workshops.

Serving families

Cooking Matters

Cooking Matters teach smart shopping strategies and healthy cooking skills so participants can prepare nutritious, low-cost meals and snacks at home.

The six-week courses cover nutrition principles, meal planning, shopping tips and cooking activities. At the end of each class, adult and teen participants receive a bag of groceries to take home.

Before face-to-face programming was suspended in mid-March, 571 people participated in Cooking Matters programs.

Cooking Matters at the Store is a 90-minute guided grocery store tour that focuses on buying healthy food on a budget. Participants learn:

  • Tips for calculating unit pricing
  • How to decipher food label terminology
  • Three ways to purchase produce

Last year, 408 people participated in Cooking Matters at the Store either in-person or virtually. 90% of participants are better able to save money on groceries after taking the tour.

Response to COVID-19

When the coronavirus hit Missouri, MU Extension faculty, staff and volunteers didn't waste any time adapting to continue to serve Missourians in new and different ways.

Within days of the suspension of face-to-face programming, MU Extension launched a statewide COVID-19 resource website to help Missouri families, communities, businesses, workers and farmers navigate the pandemic and response.

Virtual town halls

During growing season, producers rely on the expertise and resources of MU Extension faculty. When face-to-face programming and meetings were paused, faculty had to figure out how to answer questions and provide reliable information.

Virtual town halls were scheduled. Producers and gardeners were encouraged to submit questions online that would be answered in the virtual meeting. Recordings are available on YouTube for those who miss the live town halls.

Popular topics of the town hall meetings include:
  • Fall Forage Stockpiling
  • Do's and Don'ts of Applying Lawn Products
  • Fall Armyworm
  • Why are my tomato leavings curling?

Between April 8 and June 24, the town hall videos have been viewed over 3,700 times. Even during a pandemic, gardeners and producers get timely, relevant answers to their questions during the weekly town halls.

Surviving COVID chaos as an essential business

Furloughing family is not something Dr. Steve Rice ever thought he would have to do. Then came the coronavirus. Rice's business, Vision Clinic, had to furlough 79 of its 85 employees, including some family members.

In the beginning, business owners were receiving a lot of misinformation about the requirements to re-open. Rice contacted Missouri Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) for help. Chrystal Irons, director of the Missouri SBDC at Missouri State University, guided Rice about the available programs and aid available to help small businesses survive.

Between working with lenders and vendors to manage cash flow and working with the Missouri SBDC to obtain available funds to bridge the gap, Vision Clinic was able to survive its six-week closure — and to bring back all of its 79 furloughed employees.
As of June 30, 2020, Missouri SBDC clients have reported they have been approved for $57, 821,640 in the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans and other pandemic-related funds.

Fire and Rescue Training Institute (FRTI)

Some trainings can't be done online. And accidents don't stop because of a pandemic. As soon as it was possible, FRTI resumed its Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting course, ensuring that all safety protocols mandated by the CDC were followed.

The course provides specialized fire training for FAA-certified airports throughout the nation and utilizes a simulator to provide realistic, effective trainings on-site at airport locations.

Between May 15 and June 30 of this year, 27 Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting trainings in four states were completed.

In FY2020, the Fire and Rescue Training Institute provided training to more than 10,000 fire and emergency service responders in 103 Missouri counties and 43 states.
Just because 4-H'ers can't meet in person, it doesn't mean the projects, activities and learning stop. They're finding new ways to get the job done.

4-H Online Learning

Daily Facebook Live videos included demonstrations on embryology, robotics, sewing, engineering design and more. Missouri 4-H faculty created 46 4-H Live: Online Learning videos from March to May.

Missouri 4-H and MU Extension specialists in health and nutrition teamed up for Cooking Connection, a daily healthy cooking demonstration.

The Missouri 4-H Facebook page has gained more than 3,000 new followers in the last year.

Mask makers

Missouri 4-H'ers across the state have sewn thousands of masks for those in need.

Marshall Stewart, Vice Chancellor for Extension and Engagement
Thank you for your support of our mission, and your role in our efforts to serve the state of Missouri last year. In the face of challenges, present or future, our commitment to Missourians remains the same – to partner with, empower and serve Missourians as we work together to improve the lives of people in our state. I hope you’ve learned something new about our work.