In 2011, Bourbon County joined Allen and Neosha counties to become a part of the Kansas State Research and Extension Southwind District, which has provided information and services on a number of topics to residents since that time.
“We are here to serve you guys,” local district agent Christopher Petty said during a Chamber Coffee Thursday.
Petty pointed out Kansas State University is a land grant institution, meaning it was created using federal funds, and now has offices in each county so it can serve residents around the state. Before the Southwind District was formed, the three counties held separate offices that were funded by county commission general fund budgets, but in 2010 it instead became its own tax entity.
District Director Carla Nemecek of Iola said joining into one district allowed the agents to specialize in specific fields instead of merely providing general information on several topics. The agents now focus on fields such as horticulture, health and wellness, food and nutrition, health insurance, agriculture, and 4-H programs for youth.
Throughout the year, the district provides informational programs on a variety of topics from a number of speakers. Other programs include the Walk Kansas health initiative encouraging exercise and the Stay Strong, Stay Healthy class held at the Buck Run Community Center for older members of the community.
“We’ve been grateful and humbled by folks receiving us into your communities,” Nemecek said, adding they enjoy meeting and serving people in the three counties.
Most of the services provided are offered for free, although there could be small fees if samples have to be sent to Kansas State.
The extension agents answer to a locally elected board of officers. The Southwind District has offices in Erie, Iola and Fort Scott. The Fort Scott office is located on the first floor of the Bourbon County courthouse.