What is the Value of an Extension Specialist’s Site Visit?

I often get requests to go to a farm and see about a certain problem or issue that has cropped up.  I am happy to do this as it is part of my job.  But, sometimes on these visits I hear the comment that, “my tax dollars pay for this visit” or something akin to that.  Is that true?  Well, yes and no.  Tax dollars may go toward that visit indirectly, but how much would a visit cost if there was no Extension Service?  For example, if the only option was to call a consultant what would that cost the growers?  Let’s look at an example:

A consultant who lives in Poplarville, MS is called to visit a vineyard in Corinth, MS.  The distance is 319 miles.  The consultant spends 5 hours driving each way, plus spends a couple hours with the grower.  It is a long drive, so the consultant must spend the night and eat all meals out at restaurants.  So, the costs are mileage, wages, hotel, and per diem.  Let’s say the mileage rate is 55 cents per mile.  The consultant’s wage rate is $35/hr (cheap!).  The hotel is $100/night and per diem is $30/day.  All told that adds up quickly.  A short, two day trip like this would cost the grower $350 in mileage, $420 in wages (driving time plus time on farm — does not include any extra time spend on the project outside of visit), $100 for hotel, and $60 per diem.  All told that is $930.

This is what I would call a minimum cost.  Wages might be higher and there may be time spent outside of the visit on the issue.  Of course this is somewhat of an extreme example because the distance is so great, but it is not an unusual one.

However, a grape grower who calls me to visit can get that same visit for NOTHING!  FREE!  NADA!  ZILCH!  Not only does having an Extension Service in Mississippi save that one grower at least $930, the problem also gets resolved at no extra cost by an expert in the field (often with a Ph.D.).

What is the value of an Extension Specialist’s site visit?  I could say “priceless”, but that isn’t really correct.  It has a price and as long as the Extension Service exists in Mississippi (and other states) in its current form it is a tremendous bargain for the growers.  I’m not always sure if they understand that, but I would hope they would and pass that understanding on to lawmaker’s as well.

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