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Autumn: A Time for Endings and Beginnings

Editor's note: This column was written before the tragic shooting in Las Vegas.

By Karen Shirer, Associate Dean — Family Development

North of the equator, the month of September brings autumn when the days grow shorter and cooler. Plant life shows it final brilliance before winter sets in for the long haul. As Fredric and Mary Ann Brussat reflect, poets capture the deeper meaning of autumn as they describe the leaves letting go, the shortening days, and recognizing the impermanence of living things.

Autumn is my favorite season for these reasons, and also because autumn is a time of renewal and new beginnings. Who among us has not looked forward to the first day of school in September or the first Honeycrisp apples from Minnesota orchards? Autumn also brings a new football season with hopes of the University of Minnesota football team being invited to a bowl game and the return of students to the university’s five campuses. I always sign many Regent Scholarship Program forms in the fall as many of you either start or continue to take courses for a degree or enrichment.

Renewing Commitments

In Extension and Family Development, autumn also serves as a time of renewed commitment to our mission and work. As a former school teacher, I think of fall as a time to renew my commitment to learning and teaching, and to our educational work with families. Below is a sampling of opportunities to renew our commitment and efforts during the next few months:

  • In just over a week, the 2017 Extension Program Conference convenes in Brooklyn Park, MN. Extension academic professional and administrative (P&A) staff and educators, and faculty will gather to honor those who received awards, learn new skills, and network with each other.
  • We have an opportunity to renew our commitment to diversity and inclusion. By the end of December, all Extension employees need to complete the online Civil Rights training. Plan to devote about five hours of time to complete all five modules. You can find more information on the Extension intranet: Civil Rights Training (Extension log-in required).
  • The online course Mindfulness in the Workplace is being offered to a pilot group of FD staff this fall. The program is offered by the UMN Center for Spirituality and Healing, and has six sessions. Before the end of June 2018, all center staff and faculty will have an opportunity to participate. Contact Sharon Mulé for additional information.

Wrapping Up

Autumn is about endings, too. Many of you are wrapping up your work with farmers markets and Minnesota’s SNAP incentive program, Market Bucks. As I was finishing up this column last week, I received an email about Gus Schumacher. Gus was a pioneer for SNAP incentives and founder of the nonprofit organization Wholesome Wave. He died unexpectedly of heart failure last week. Here is an excerpt from the announcement Wholesome Wave posted on September 25:
It is with deep sadness that we share the news that Gus Schumacher passed unexpectedly of a heart attack last night. The good food movement, the agricultural sector, and the world at large has lost one of the most magnificent advocates ever known. Gus leaves an immeasurable legacy: his vision and work improved the lives of untold numbers of farmers and farms of all sizes, and eaters of all incomes. The world is a far better place because of him.
We never know when the seasons of our lives will change. So take some time to enjoy the autumn weather, breathing in the smells and appreciating the colors.

A patch of fall colors on my way into work. Love the pink sedum.

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