The challenge of feeding a surging population with less resources demands an increase in efficiency. Efficiency in water use, efficiency in reducing food waste and efficiency in land usage. In order to meet these challenges, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln must also efficiently use its resources.
To better integrate research and extension programs, a reorganization of university resources has occurred in the eastern one-third of Nebraska, home to 70 percent of the state's population.
"This reorganization was about leveraging strengths in eastern Nebraska and capturing new opportunities," said Agricultural Research Division Dean Archie Clutter. "We've always been active with research and extension in this region. Reorganizing allows us to better integrate those projects and deliver them in more efficient ways to a larger population."
This reorganization was about leveraging strengths in eastern Nebraska and capturing new opportunities. Archie Clutter
The new region comprises 53 counties, including the highly populated urban areas of Lincoln and Omaha.
The headquarters for the new formation, the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center, is located near Mead, at the facility formerly known as the Agricultural Research and Development Center. The South Central Agricultural Laboratory, Haskell Agricultural Laboratory, Barta Brothers Ranch and Kimmel Education and Research Extension Center are also included under ENREC's collaborative structure.
"ENREC's proximity to urban populations and the entire student body of the university brings an opportunity for greater engagement around agriculture and natural resources settings," Clutter said.
The variety of research and extension programming in eastern Nebraska is vast. From plant breeding and beef systems, to community vitality and youth development. The goal of the reorganization is for more research and information concerning these areas to be delivered quicker and in new ways to the public.
"Educating the public on the uphill battle we face in food security is crucial to be able to address the challenges we face. These challenges affect us all, in both rural and urban settings, but we have to start to engage with these groups in different ways in order to deliver our messages," said Chuck Hibberd, dean of Nebraska Extension.
While maintaining the face-to-face communication practices so many of extension's clients are used to, according to Hibberd, extension has also increased its use of technology to deliver science to urban audiences. Online videos, social media and blogs are now all included in extension's toolbox for communicating with Nebraskans.
"There are over a million people living in and around Lincoln and Omaha. As these areas continue to grow it's critical that we have a wide variety of ways we can engage with them," said Hibberd.
Justin McMechan is a cropping systems specialist at ENREC. His responsibilities include extension and research programs focused on eastern Nebraska rainfed and irrigated production systems. McMechan has bought into the new reorganization because of its focus on increasing communication opportunities with the public.
"Collaboration and exchange of information with consultants and producers is critical to fostering a dialogue to determine, address and develop solutions for key issues in eastern Nebraska," McMechan said.
Reorganizing its resources across the state is just one way the University of Nebraska– Lincoln has shown its commitment to the land-grant mission. From the rancher in the Sandhills to youth in Omaha, the university continues to explore opportunities to efficiently engage with all people of the state. With more programming delivered across more platforms than ever before, Nebraska has truly become a living and learning laboratory.
To learn more about ENREC, visit extension.unl.edu/statewide/enrec/.