MANHATTAN, Kan. – As a boy growing up in Brookville, Indiana, Gregg Hadley had influences of the nation’s Cooperative Extension Service all around him. He was in 4-H, his sister interned with a local extension office, his brother-in-law was an extension agent and his mom was involved with the extension-related homemaker’s organization.
Those influences helped shape a career which led him to his newest post as associate director for extension at Kansas State University. He has served as assistant director of agriculture, natural resources and community development at K-State since 2011. In his new role, he will lead statewide extension programs focused particularly in health, global food systems, water, vitalizing communities and developing tomorrow’s leaders.
“My parents were role models with regard to engaging in informal continuing education, volunteerism and public service, so it was probably inevitable that I wound up in an extension career,” said Hadley, who started his new role Aug. 1. He succeeds Daryl Buchholz, who retired in May after serving 12 years in the position. Jim Lindquist served as interim associate director this summer.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics at Purdue University in 1989, he worked in the livestock feed industry for several years before earning master’s and Ph.D. degrees in agricultural economics at Michigan State University. From 2002 to 2011, he served as associate professor and extension farm management specialist with the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. While there, he taught undergraduate students as well as farmers, ranchers and other professionals through the Wisconsin extension system.
It was those years in Wisconsin that cemented his interest in a career in extension.
“I saw firsthand, secondhand, and third-hand how the education and resources of Cooperative Extension and how extension professionals themselves can positively change lives,” he said.
Hadley’s vision for K-State Research and Extension is to offer all Kansans timely access to research-based educational programs and resources to help them address critical issues affecting their lives, livelihoods and communities; to ensure that its professionals and volunteers have the support, recognition and training needed to help them serve the people of Kansas; and to make K-State Research and Extension a preeminent extension institution.
“We are so fortunate to have someone of Gregg’s caliber with his experience in industry, academia and extension in this important role,” said John Floros, dean of Kansas State University’s College of Agriculture and director of K-State Research and Extension. “Since joining us in 2011 as an assistant director, he has worked with many Kansans throughout the state, as well as with colleagues within our extension system. His moving into the associate director’s position gives us a valuable resource as we work to be a national leader and model public research and land-grant university.”
Even with a large presence in Manhattan, plus five research-extension centers, and offices in every Kansas county, some people are unaware of the breadth of programs and services that K-State Research and Extension offers. Many across the state know of 4-H, Extension Master Gardeners, Walk Kansas, and Dining with Diabetes, for example, but don’t know that those programs and others, in addition to many agricultural-related efforts, are K-State Research and Extension programs. In that respect, extension has work to do, Hadley said, including better use of media, including social media.
Several years ago, through input from the public, extension professionals, volunteers and others, K-State Research and Extension identified five grand challenges that the state is facing and is committed to working on. They include global food systems, water, community vitality, health, and developing tomorrow’s leaders.
“We are making great strides in dealing with these issues,” Hadley said. “But, these are huge challenges. We are not going to wake up tomorrow and find that Kansas water issues have been solved. Society has to address these issues step by step in significant ways. K-State Research and Extension provides the research and education Kansans need to address these issues.”
Among the many programs Kansas extension is involved in are those devoted to wheat, sorghum and other crops developed to resist pests and able to withstand the changing climate, educational efforts that encourage and support healthy lifestyles and communities, work focused on keeping food safe from farms to dinner tables, and programs aimed at conserving the state’s and country’s precious water resources. Many of the programs are collaborative efforts with farmers, ranchers and other Kansans, plus state and federal agencies and other universities.
Some things that won’t necessarily show up on a resumé, but are traits that Hadley brings to the job, he said, are a willingness to listen, an interest in discussing issues that Cooperative Extension can address, and in exploring how to make K-State Research and Extension even better.
He plans to visit many county and extension districts this year to get Kansans’ thoughts about goals for their lives, livelihoods and communities and how K-State Research and Extension can play a role in providing the tools needed to reach those goals.
Hadley’s commitment to education does not stop when he leaves the office. He competes in the Master’s Division of Olympic-style weightlifting and coaches other weightlifters. Even his dog, Farley is involved in community-based education and has been known to “write” about his Kansas travels on social media.