Since its establishment in 1888, the University of Rhode Island was founded as the State Agricultural School for its vast and nearby farmland. The university’s Cooperative Extension program is celebrating its 100th year of being a resource for Rhode Islanders by extending URI’s research into their communities.
There are full-time researchers and professors who spend their time at URI’s East Farm, Agronomy Farm and Peckham Farm collecting data that can be beneficial to homeowners. Plant, animal veterinary, aquaculture, agricultural and horticulture research are among some of the studies that go on at each of these farms.
“Cooperative extension is the vehicle for how we extend agricultural research out to producers,” Kate Venturini, interim director at the Outreach Center, said. She said as part of the Outreach Center, they are doing much more marketing for the work that goes on at the farms into communities because currently, although it’s available for those seeking services, it’s not a very used resource.
All state universities are required to have a cooperative extension service, and Venturini said there is a need for agricultural information that URI can provide answers for.
If a homeowner is having trouble with the health of a plant, they could bring it into the plant protection clinic for evaluation and advice. For help with a more complex issue, like a municipal official needing help meeting stormwater management requirements under the Clean Water Act, they could call URI’s Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials program. The aquaculture research could also provide resources if something were going wrong at nearby oyster farms.
“We can give education to people in many different aspects,” Venturini said.
Another part of Cooperative Extension is their Master Gardeners program. Gardeners are trained in a 14 week-long course on the fundamentals of horticulture. They currently have 500 active volunteers who are involved in educating the public on protecting water quality, habitat, and general horticulture education.
It is important for Venturini that URI’s research is viewed as a solution center for any kind of agricultural scenario. One of her goals is for the Outreach Center to be an “info hub.” She said they are not selling URI’s information but rather offering it as a public service for environmental issues.
“As environmental problems increase, Cooperative Extension can provide science based info to the concerns of Rhode Islanders,” Venturini said. “URI has a lot to offer.”
October is Sustainability Month and when Cooperative Extension will celebrate their 100th anniversary. On October 14 through 16, they will host networking events, film screenings and events at night to the public. All of this is also part of expanding URI’s resource information to students and to other Rhode Islanders and URI’s sustainability initiatives.