ST. JOHN — K-State Research and Extension has been a fixture in all 105 Kansas counties since 1914.

Stafford County Research and Extension office, located in St. John, like most other counties has learned how to benefit from resources offered statewide, including a monthly online "First Fridays" online series.

Recent guest speaker was Becky McCray, co-founder of Save Your Town, a consulting business that guides people toward making their small towns a better place to live. McCray made some points that hit home for Amy Collins and Amanda Staub, Stafford County Extension agents.

"McCray told us that all small towns are facing the challenge of rebuilding their local economy in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the advice we hear is often meant for cities or big business districts. It doesn’t meet our small-town reality," Collins said. "We know that the single-county Extension service model is no longer the most effective way to operate and reach our intended audiences. That’s why Stafford County and Edwards County are looking to combine forces and become their own Extension district."

While not a new idea to Kansas, a combined Extension district is a new idea for Stafford County. It will allow Stafford County to team up with Edwards County and enable Extension agents to work differently and more efficiently than they have in the past. To date, 57 Kansas counties have combined to form 20 Extension districts in Kansas. Extension districts offer a more sustainable, efficient way of doing business in the future, Collins said.

"We know you cannot apply yesterday’s methods today and still be in business tomorrow," said Staub, Stafford County Extension’s agriculture agent. "We know by following the data and outcomes of other districts, new districting will allow us to be forward thinking and relevant in today’s world."

Stafford County will be voting to become a district with Edwards County in the November general election this fall.

New ideas and programs introduced to Stafford County by K-State Research and Extension specialists in the past year include community PRIDE groups in Stafford and Macksville; Farm Financial Skills for Kansas Women in Ag workshops and SHICK, Senior Health Insurance Counseling, which helped Stafford County residents save over $9,500 on health insurance.

"Through programs like these, we bring research-based, educational programs from K-State to our local residents and work to improve the lives of those living in our small, rural communities," said Collins. "We can trust the redistricting process to be beneficial as well."