Mississippians know to call the Extension Service with questions about insect pests, row crops or family finances, and thousands turn to the same source for training on a variety of other topics.

One topic that has become popular is all-terrain vehicle safety. Many Mississippians are injured and some killed each year in accidents involving ATVs. In late October, two 11-year-old girls died in an ATV accident in DeSoto County, Miss., highlighting the need for training in how to safely operate these vehicles.

Bolivar County was the first in Mississippi to offer safety training through the MSU Extension Service’s Agromedicine program.

“We were able to develop the ATV safety training into a model program for other counties to follow,” said Laura Giaccaglia, Bolivar County 4-H agent. “We worked with the Agromedicine staff to create this program for the rest of the state.”

Maci Flautt is an Extension area health agent based in Coahoma County, Miss. She said the Agromedicine project began in 2003 and lasted four years with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Delta Health Alliance and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The state’s ATV safety program was developed during this time.

“Agromedicine was set up to support farmers and farm families in the Mississippi Delta to try to prevent injuries and illnesses related to agriculture,” Flautt said. “ATVs are popular farm and recreational vehicles, so we became interested in promoting their safe use.”

Working with Giaccaglia and her ATV team, Flautt received a grant from the National 4-H Council to start an ATV safety program in Bolivar County. “We were able to start a model-type program for other counties to go by,” Giaccaglia said. “We were responsible for training all the other counties in the state on how to start their own ATV safety program.”

Joe Street, Extension state leader for agriculture, said this program is an example of the variety of educational programs available free or at-cost to the residents of Mississippi.

“The ATV safety program has been very popular and has grown far outside its original county,” Street said.

The Extension Service is the off-campus educational arm of MSU, and it provides current research and educational information to individuals in all 82 counties. Priority program areas are agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer education, enterprise and community resource development, and 4-H youth development.

“The MSU Extension Service is a leading provider of noncredit educational opportunities for adults and youth in Mississippi,” Street said. “It is a partnership of federal, state and county governments, and it carries out the land-grant university mission of extending practical, research-based knowledge from the university to the people of the state.”

Extension specialists and faculty members at the university develop curricula on a range of topics delivered by county Extension agents to people across the state, close to where they live and work. A volunteer network strengthens the reach of the Extension Service as these people serve as educational leaders in their communities.

“Today Extension offers educational programs for everyone: agricultural and horticultural producers, food processing and food-service workers, small business owners, forest landowners and managers, elected officials, community leaders, families, parents and youth,” Street said. “Extension offers certification programs, state-mandated training and nonformal learning opportunities in agriculture and natural resources, 4-H youth development, enterprise and community development, and family and consumer education.”

Extension programs can take the form of short courses, conferences or training sessions; demonstrations and tours; and distance learning opportunities. Information also is made available online and through traditional media.