Edward Olsen
Extension Agent
Virginia Cooperative Extension
Henrico County

Olsen, E.*1,
1 Extension Agent, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Henrico, VA, 23273

   Urban Extension Agents are faced with the challenge of trying to reach large numbers of people with research based information on gardening topics. Newsletters have been used by Extension Agents as a standard method of disseminating research-based information to help clients live fuller, more productive lives for decades and it continues to be an effective method for reaching a targeted audience. Recently, there has been a trend toward electronic delivery of newsletters versus a printed and mailed version.  The Henrico Horticulture Extension Agent began producing a horticulture newsletter aimed at the general public in the summer of 2017. The newsletter is free, multi-pages long and electronically distributed via a mailing list through the Mailchimp marketing automation platform. At various presentations, the agent collects contact information for those interested in receiving the publication to generate the mailing list.  Additionally, various social media posts direct those interested in the publication to a sign-up form.  Since 2017 the distribution list has grown to over 450 recipients.  Sections of the newsletter include several articles on a timely horticulture related topic, a list of gardening things to do for the period covered by the newsletter, information about homeowner horticulture related educational opportunities  offered by the office, and related program fliers.  The Late Summer/Early Winter 2019 edition was distributed on August 5, 2019 to 428 recipients.  It contained a total of 9 pages.   250 or 58% of the recipients viewed the newsletter.  The Late Spring/Summer 2019 edition was distributed from April 26 to May 14, 2019 to 430 recipients.  It contained a total of 10 pages.  265 or 62% of the recipients viewed the newsletter.  Each of the submitted newsletters was written, designed and edited by the agent with three contributed articles.  In 2020, after multiple years of publication and after garnering a consistent reader base, there are plans to evaluate the effectiveness of the newsletter including its readability and use, usefulness of the different sections of the newsletter, and any positive behavior changes by readers.