Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Donna Krug, Cottonwood District
Feb. 9, 2022
By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University
When your business or organization needs to conduct a staff retreat, where do you go? Sometimes groups leave their town to go to a bigger city with lots of venue choices.
Today we’ll meet an Extension district whose staff chose to go in the opposite direction. They are choosing to hold their retreats in the smaller towns within their counties.
Donna Krug is the district director for the K-State Research and Extension Cottonwood District, comprised of Barton and Ellis Counties. She also serves as a family and consumer sciences agent for the district.
At left: Donna Krug
Donna grew up on a farm near Washington, Kansas. After graduating from K-State, she became a 4-H agent in Texas where her future husband, John, was attending chiropractic school. They married and came to back to Kansas where Donna became the family and consumer sciences agent in Barton County. John was a chiropractor in Great Bend for 32 years.
“As an Extension agent, I do a lot of health and wellness and nutrition classes,” Donna said. “I like sharing my knowledge on health and wellness, and I love the people who come to learn.”
She enjoys teaching Stay Strong, Stay Healthy workshops and has developed10 family and consumer sciences fact sheets focused on health and nutrition. She’s now teaching a sauerkraut making class.
“I recently did a fact sheet on taking a new look at fermented foods,” Donna said. “I shared it at a national meeting. The folks at Iowa State called and want me to come present it there.”
In 2017, Barton and Ellis counties joined together to form the Cottonwood district, and Donna became director. When county staffs join together as a new team, planning becomes especially important.
Donna recognized the need for a staff planning retreat and had a creative idea about where to conduct it. “So many of our activities take place in Hays or Great Bend,” she said. “Why not go to the outlying communities? I thought it would be good to reach out to the smaller towns in our counties.”
In the years since, the Cottonwood district has held its semiannual retreats in rural communities such as Hoisington, population 2,699; Ellinwood, population 2,131; Ellis, population 1,958; Claflin, population 645; and Catharine (including the surrounding area), population 113 people. Now, that’s rural.
“I reach out to the staff members who live in those areas and ask them to take the lead in planning those retreats,” Donna said. Such retreats typically involve a tour, meal, or fun activity plus a couple of hours of strategic program planning.
“Our 4-H agent Michelle Beran lives near Claflin,” Donna said. “She arranged for us to meet at the library and then walk to the pizza parlor.”
In Ellinwood, they learned about the Strengthsfinders program and toured the underground tunnels downtown. At Ellis, they visited a maker space.
“Our office professional in Hays, Theresa Meis, lives near Catharine,” Donna said. “She arranged for us to meet there and tour her beautiful church, and we also tried painting barn quilts.”
The retreat provides an opportunity for agents and staff to discuss program direction and practice staff development. “I always try to keep us focused on our mission statement,” Donna said. “At one meeting, I used Bill Snyder’s book on 16 goals for success and we shared how we could apply those to our work.”
She also organizes a joint meeting of Extension program development committees in both counties. “We share a meal, go over shared topics, and then break into our program development committees,” she said.
When your business or organization needs to conduct a staff retreat, where do you go? We’re thankful that Donna Krug and the K-State Research and Extension Cottonwood District chose to make a difference by reaching out to the smaller communities in their counties. As Donna said, “It validates that every community and every person is important.”
And there’s more. Donna played a pivotal role in rerouting a national bicycle trail to her hometown of Great Bend. We’ll learn about that next week.
Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are available at http://www.kansasprofile.com. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.