Clemson Extension expanding and adapting to state’s needs

CLEMSON — Clemson University Extension will hire specialists across the state and expand programming to better meet the needs of South Carolina’s residents and economy in a five-year strategic plan approved by university leaders.

Youth development efforts will increase with added 4-H programming, particularly in rural areas, said Extension Director Thomas Dobbins. Extension also is adding urban programming to focus on farm-to-school, farm-to-table, healthy living, animal science and agribusiness development efforts in the state’s metro areas.

The popular Home and Garden Information Center will extend its hours and add staff to answer more of South Carolinians’ questions about landscaping, gardening, plant health, household pests, food safety and preservation and nutrition.

“We began the process of crafting a five-year strategic plan a year ago to ensure our efforts accurately align with the needs of South Carolina residents, businesses and communities,” said Dobbins.

Extension serves as the university’s public outreach arm, providing unbiased, research-based information to help improve the quality of life in South Carolina, a core responsibility of a land-grant university such as Clemson. Its goal is to improve the value of the state’s $42 billion agriculture and forestry industries; strengthen families and communities; improve stewardship of natural resources and the environment; strengthen connections between people and their food; and expose South Carolina youth to opportunities in agriculture, science, technology, engineering and math.

New hires include specialists in soil health, soil fertility, precision agriculture, forestry, crop physiology and crop pathology. It also is adding agribusiness experts; an agronomy economist; and Extension agents in Richland, Aiken, Hampton, Williamsburg and Greenville counties.

Additional 4-H agents are to be hired across the state as well. Extension will partner with the S.C. Department of Education to establish a leadership certificate program in K-12 schools, Dobbins said.

“It’s very important that we teach children soft skills and develop future leaders,” he said.

Clemson Extension is expanding its assistance to new and emerging farmers through entrepreneurship assistance across the state and introducing new technologies to improve farm profitability and environmental stewardship through its growing precision agriculture program. Programs to assist with fruit and vegetable production across the state also will grow.

“I want to thank the state Legislature and our many partners across the state, including the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, the South Carolina Farm Bureau, the Forestry Commission and many others for supporting us as we work together to lift the quality of life in every corner of the state,” Dobbins said. “Our five-year plan serves as a guide to ensure we’re hitting our goal of economic advancement in South Carolina and we’ll evaluate that plan regularly so we stay on that path.”