COLUMBUS — After completing his first year on the job, Ohio State University Extension Director Roger Rennekamp feels he’s accomplished several key goals, but still has high hopes for the future.
Rennekamp’s no stranger of agriculture education. Before coming to OSU in January 2016, he was the associate dean for Outreach and Engagement at Oregon State University. Prior to that he worked with the University of Kentucky as an Extension specialist in program and staff development and as a program specialist for the local 4-H.
He’s also no stranger to Ohio. Rennekamp earned his Ph.D. from Ohio State. Since coming back he says he’s still enamored with the school.
“I know coming here has certainly reaffirmed OSU’s focus as one of the most comprehensive land grant universities I’ve seen, in terms of the knowledge base we have,” he said. “The challenge is making sure we can deploy that knowledge effectively.”
He’s had a number of goals for his tenure as director, from simply making university resources easily accessible to prompting discussion on water run-off issues.
He’s kept good on one promise — he’s visited half of Ohio’s 88 counties, so far. He wants to visit them all.
“In my previous positions [in Kentucky and Oregon], I did the same thing,” he said. “I want to make it a priority to connect with our faculty on a local level.”
Rennekamp’s goal is for extension to focus on problems all Ohio farmers face. His priority is to ensure each county can have an effective extension office, whether it focuses on grains to locally-grown organics to even urban farming.
He’s not just focusing on current farmers, either. The director is encouraging more public accessibility to the programs extension runs. The department has started a series to help get new people curious about how to start farming in Ohio.
That accessibility extends beyond content. It’s also location.
“I want to make sure people can get quality education at our extension offices as they would driving out to Columbus,” said Rennekamp. “We want people to be able to use extension as a resource as much as possible.”
He said one big push is modernizing the “infrastructure” of extension, essentially using the internet to help streamline what they can offer.
One effort has been a focus on video conferencing so educators can call in from wherever and give access to talks all over Ohio. They’re also looking into how to make various publications and factsheets accessible online and mobile friendly.
It’s also been beneficial to the budget: less driving and less paper means less money on gas and office supplies.
Properly managing the budget is a constant challenge, in general.
“We’re committed to growing the available resources while also managing what we have,” he said. “We have to ensure there’s an extension office in every county. It’s a delicate balance we’ll be looking at constantly now and in the future.”
One of his goals for the future is to start an internship program at the extension offices to train prospective educators.
“We’re really trying to find our future extension educators,” he said. “Again, we want people to know about us and see us as an option for a career in agriculture.”
Maximilian Kwiatkowski can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617 or on Twitter @MSFKwiat.