News Features

Distance Collaboration

K-State Engagement E-News, March 2010 (PDF)

by Mindy Von Elling

The Morland grocery store in its beginning redevelopment stages.

One of the most successful ventures that the Center for Engagement and Community Development has started in collaboration with a community extension office, is the Morland grocery store project. CECD has been partnering with the Graham County Extension office and principle investigators, Chris Petty and Leah Tsoodle, to develop a new grocery store in Morland, Kan. after the previous one was shut down due to its owner's retirement.

So what makes this project so special? Simply the healthy and successful collaboration between a major land-grant university and a community that is three and a half hours away. Chris Petty, agriculture and 4-H agent of the Graham County Extension office, said one of the main reasons the project has been so successful is the constant communication between partners.

"Communication has probably been the key as far as getting this project rolling because my office is three and a half hours away from Manhattan," Petty said. "Without good communication as far as online and through telephone, we wouldn't be able to get it done the way we have."

Partnering with Petty on the project and someone who is equally excited about the outcome is Leah Tsoodle, an extension associate in the agricultural economics department at Kansas State University. Tsoodle said she thinks any potential obstacle has been overridden by technology and a key component: communication.

"They've been very open to any type of communication. I think that's the key to overcoming that distance obstacle," Tsoodle said of the Graham County extension office.

The grocery store project has included a series of surveys sent out to the Morland community, as well as refurbishing the interior. One of the biggest challenges occurred with the location of the store. Tsoodle said the store was first projected to be built on a floodplain, but new survey results confirmed the location for the store was ready for development. Incidentally, the only thing needed was more funding.

"One of the strongest positive influences in the project was the support of the CECD personnel," Tsoodle said.

With the help of CECD, any logistics problem the project approached, such as the aforementioned, was overcome. The collaboration among the university and the extension office has made the project so successful and made long-distance project work do-able.

"I think it's having good partners that have been willing to help out and have a good attitude," Petty said. "Having good partners to work with really makes the job easy and their enthusiasm helps me be enthused. Having good people to work with sure makes life a lot easier."

The new Morland grocery store is expected to be completely refurbished and erected by October 1, 2010.