Douglas County Extension Program Impacts Lives

Marlin Bates, the director of Douglas County Extension Services, has made a career of his work in the field.

Bates explained the history of land grant institutions and the breadth of services that they provide.  Many are unaware of the scope of programs in place to fulfill the land grant mission: “We are dedicated to a safe, sustainable, competitive food and fiber system and to strong, healthy communities, families and youth through integrated research, analysis and education.”

Many extension programs are familiar to the public: 

  • 4-H Youth Development
  • Health, Nutrition & Safety
  • Lawn & Garden
  • Business & Economics
  • Home & Family
  • Crops & Livestock

In recent years, extension staff has focused more on programs that address issues at the systems level as opposed to teaching particular skills.   Those broad areas include health, global food systems, community vitality, water and natural resources, and development of leaders.

During the Civil War, the Morrill Act of 1862 established land grant universities to teach agricultural science, mechanical arts, and military science.  Kansas’ land grant institution is Kansas State University in Manhattan.  The Hatch Act of 1887 widened the definition of land grant institutions to include research and established a network of field stations to conduct that research.  The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 directed the land grant institutions to distribute and disseminate information to the public. 

Kansas has an extension office in every one of its 105 counties.  Each has a 24-member board that is elected by the citizens in the county.  An executive board tends to day-to-day issues.  Douglas County has fourteen staff.

Family Can Be Complicated

Jim Peter’s explained Eleanor Roosevelt’s family tree, revealing complicated formative relationships in the early life of the woman who served as First Lady for twelve years and became the role model for modern First Ladies. 

Peter’s comments were a preview of the six-hour course he will teach this winter for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on “Eleanor Roosevelt: Her Private Struggles and Public Triumphs.”

Here are facts from Eleanor’s early years:

  • Eleanor was a descendent of the Oyster Bay Roosevelts in New York. The family gained wealth in business and banking and was known for its philanthropy and political influence.
  • Born in 1884, the daughter of Elliott and Anna Hall Roosevelt, she was named “Anna Eleanor.”
  • President Theodore Roosevelt was her uncle, her father’s older brother.
  • Her mother and one of her two brothers died when she was eight years old, and she was orphaned by the time she was nine. 
  • She was raised by her maternal grandmother Mary Livingston Ludlow Hall along with aunts and uncles who were close to her in age.
  • Schooled at home until she was 15, she then attended finishing school at Allenswood Academy in England where she played field hockey, danced, and toured Europe.
  • In 1907, she married Franklin D. Roosevelt, one of the Hyde Park Roosevelts. He was her fifth cousin once removed. 

Ring Those Holiday Bells!

It’s a club tradition to ring the bells for Salvation Army donations during the annual Old-Fashioned Christmas parade on Massachusetts Street. The first Saturday of December once again found Lawrence Central Rotarians stationed near the red kettles.

Restorative Justice Comes to Douglas County

Lyle Seger and Lisa Larson spoke about the new Douglas County restorative justice program.  Lyle is a mediator and restorative justice facilitator for the Center for Conflict Resolution and a founder of the nonprofit Building Peace.  Lisa is a City Commissioner and works in conflict resolution and mediation. She is also affiliated with Building Peace. 

Restorative justice is a concept that emerged from indigenous communities in North America and New Zealand.  European settlers had a more narrow concept of justice that involved trial, conviction and punishment.  Restorative justice attempts to find a more satisfying approach to address the harm done in a crime.  The goal is to identify satisfactory retribution, resolve conflict, and promote healing.   

Started in 2020, the restorative justice program in Douglas County has a staff of five mediators who work with lawyers, court representatives, crime victims, perpetrators, and community members impacted by a crime. 

The District Attorney makes the determination of a case’s eligibility for restorative justice.  It is a voluntary process and is available for less serious offenses and younger offenders.  Perpetrators are required to address the harm done face to face with victims and stakeholders in the larger community.  Completion of the process results in expunging of the criminal record.

Restorative justice reduces the number of young people going to jail.  The recidivism rate is under 50 per cent, and some 70 per cent of victims are satisfied with the process.  The new program is primarily funded by grants. 

At the end of the day, restorative justice focuses on how a crime impacts on the victim and the community.  The process works to promote healing, build peaceful relationships, and a stronger and more just community.

Scott Thellman, Ag Entrepreneur

Scott Thellman, a first generation farmer, tells the story of how he started Juniper Hills Farms in 2006. His business savvy, interest in distribution systems, and passion for agriculture have meshed in this new enterprise.

It all began when Scott’s family moved to the country north of Lawrence in 1999. He began helping the man who rented the property with production work. 

Even in high school, Thellman began to purchase equipment to cut and bale hay.  Loving the work and realizing that he could make money, he bought more and better equipment with a youth loan he received from a USDA program. Even before graduating from high school, he expanded his operation to include more hay land and specialty crops.

After trying out several different university ag programs, Thellman graduated in 2014 with a degree in agri-business, economics, agronomy, and leadership.   About that time, he used what he was learning about food aggregation and local food distribution systems to leverage his investment in a large refrigerated truck by distributing for other producers as well as for himself. 

Growth was  steady until COVID hit.  At that point, Spellman adapted to the closing of his traditional markets in restaurants, schools, and grocery stores by creating Sunflower Provisions, doing pick up and deliver in and around Lawrence and expanding to serve more producers.

What lies ahead? For one thing, Juniper Hills will soon establish an industrial kitchen in North Lawrence. Spellman envisions producing salsa and marinara sauce using vegetables that might otherwise be wasted. He would also like to add to production of food-grade corn and soybeans.

Spellman will continue to experiment with ways to vertically integrate his business, a slow and steady growth pattern he believes is destined for success.

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