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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Rural Development Extension in an Era of Economic Transition

Farm Business Management Update, August 2001

By David Lamie and Gary Larrowe

Rural communities have an incredible amount to offer. But it requires discovering and using the unique assets of the community to solve problems and exploit opportunities rather than spending time and energy searching for a "fix" from the outside. For instance, many small rural communities would likely be better off growing their own businesses or taking care of existing ones rather than hoping to attract a major new business from the outside. Rural local governments can serve as a catalyst in the process of community economic development by bringing together people interested in progressive strategic change, listening and responding to their ideas, and leveraging community level efforts through outside connections.

Rural communities need to find ways to cross between the "inside" of the community and the "outside" world, while at the same time utilizing the most important asset of the community, its people. Extension has made these connections very well in Virginia in the fields of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Youth Development and Family & Consumer Sciences. But, other fields are ripe for the harvest (information technology and community, economic, and educational development) that many Extension organizations around the country are embracing, for instance.

Below are a set of points that Virginia Cooperative Extension agents and Extension Leadership Councils might consider as they plan for the future. Today, more than ever, there is a place for Extension programs that will continue to build on the base of impacts to this point. Programs of the past and present will always be needed as well as the expansion of the model to provide opportunities in the future.

Point One: Virginia Cooperative Extension is not only interested in supporting farmers but in supporting farm families.

Point Two: The new economic geography favors more densely populated (metro) areas.

Point Three: Information Technology (IT) development in rural areas may not guarantee success, but perpetuation of the status quo will not work either.

Point Four: Land Grant Institutions across the country have supported educational programs to help rural communities find and sustain their niche in the global economy.

In order for Extension to make this transition, we must create appropriate incentives within the Land Grant for the existing technology knowledge base to be applied to rural Virginia and to expand research on rural development problems. Programs designed to help rural communities develop the capacity to operate in the new economy must receive adequate attention.

New Publications

From REAP Cotton Pricing Guide by Julia Marsh and David Kenyon. This publication, like its companion publications, Wheat Pricing Guide, Corn Pricing Guide, and Soybean Pricing Guide, describes how producers can make pricing forecasts as data become available and price based on that information. To obtain copies of the Cotton Pricing Guide contact the REAP office at (540) 231-9443 or by email at All pricing guides are available the REAP website: then go to publications and click on "REAP Reports."

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