All universities engage in research and teaching, but the nation’s more than 100 land-grant colleges and universities, have a third critical mission—extension.  “Extension” means “reaching out,” and—along with teaching and research—land-grant institutions extend their resources, solving public needs with college or university resources through non-formal, non-credit programs.

These programs are largely administered through thousands of county and regional extension offices, which bring land-grant expertise to the most local of levels.  And both the universities and their local offices are supported by NIFA, the federal partner in the Cooperative Extension System (CES).

The University of Vermont is one of those land-grant universities helping support communities and farmers.  For example,they produce Across the Fence, the longest-running daily farm and home television program in the country, and create tools for a wide range of farm business planning and management topics (like their Legal Guide to the Business of Farming in Vermont, developed with support from the Risk Management Agency).

They also host the New Farmer Project to draw together information and resources within Extension and the broader Vermont Agriculture community that will assist new farmers in creating successful ag businesses.  Access to information is especially critical with new farmers.  Through blog posts and webinars they share topical information and resources.  Their profiles of new farmers demonstrate how other beginning farmers were able to be successful.  And, they provide a number of ways for new farmers to network with each other for support and sharing ideas.

So, whether you are in Vermont or another state, if you are thinking about getting involved with agriculture your local Extension office is a great place to start.  And don’t forget to check out eXtension online, an interactive learning environment delivering the best, most researched knowledge from the smartest land-grant university minds across America.