Search for Excellence in Crop Production

William J Bamka
Rutgers University
Burlington County

Bamka, W.J.*1, , Komar, Stephen J.2, , Infante-Casella, Michelle3, , Melendez, Meredith4, , Bignell, Hank5, , Schilling, Brian6, , VanVranken, Richard7, , Kline, Wesley8,
1 COUNTY AGENT II, Rutgers University, Mt.Holly, NJ, 08060
2 County Agriculture Agent, Rutgers University, Newton, NJ, 07860
3 County Agriculture Agent, Rutgers University, Clarksboro, NJ, 08020
4 County Agriculture Agent, Rutgers University, Ewing, NJ, 08638
5 Senior Program Coordinator, Rutgers University, Belvidere, NJ, 07823
6 Extension Director, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901
7 County Agriculture Agent, Rutgers University, Mays Landing, NJ, 08330
8 County Agriculture Agent, Rutgers University, Millville, NJ, 08332

In March 2020, White House officials declared a national emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Shortly thereafter, Rutgers University suspended all in-person instruction and initiated remote teaching and work-from-home requirements. This announcement suddenly and dramatically changed program delivery for Extension, where clientele interactions typically occur via face-to-face meetings. These changes required a timely response from Extension and a mechanism for sharing information with partner agencies, colleagues, and the agriculture industry. The sudden changes necessitated unprecedented adaptation of program delivery to ensure continuity of communication across farmers, Extension professionals, and other industry groups. Though all segments of crop production were affected, particularly impacted were crop marketing, distribution, and farm labor. Although COVID-19 pandemic challenges were priority, farmers still required traditional services provided through Extension programming, including crop recommendations and management information. The use of web-based platforms to disseminate Extension programming has been proven to be an effective, timely, and cost-effective means of information delivery. The use of the technology offered an innovative opportunity for communication that resulted in tremendous networking across farmers, agricultural agencies, not-for-profit organizations, and others working in the agriculture industry. The goals of the program were to ensure continuation of Extension services and programming. As well as educate clientele about pandemic-related topics including farm labor, state executive order compliance, supply-chain disruptions, livestock processing, farmer assistance programs, and other emerging issues.