Based on these lessons learned, it was obvious that the Land-Grant system would have an ongoing expectation to be involved locally and nationally in the emergency management arena. EDEN formed as a North Central Region (NCR) “disaster reduction group” committee with a three-year outlook, got its name in 1996, and began the transition to a national network in 1998. The major lessons learned in the 1993 floods were:

  • Long-term community recovery efforts would rest with three key groups/agencies-local government, the faith community and Extension. These three were in those communities before the flood waters ascended and remained long after the water receded and the disaster was no longer national news.
  • Citizens looked to Extension for resources and expertise related to disaster recovery, mitigation, and preparedness, but the individual states lacked the capacity, research-based information, or expertise to address the multitude of issues/needs resulting from a major disaster such as this.
  • The emergency management community discovered that the Land-Grant system could be a tremendous asset.
  • Extension had a role related to emergency management, but the faculty was not technically prepared to play that role.
  • There was a need for more coordination and standardization of recovery recommendations by the various emergency response agencies.
  • The impacted states lacked the capacity and resources to effectively deal with the magnitude of requests for information, expertise, recommendations, technical assistance, community planning, recovery issues, etc.

A.J. Dye of the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service(CSREES), now known as USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), asked Peter Bloome, University of Illinois; Jerry DeWitt, Iowa State University(ISU); and David Baker, University of Missouri, to develop a proposal for the use of remaining special funds to build on the lessons learned and to position the region to more effectively prepare for and respond to future disasters.

The three leaders initially envisioned that one or more centers would be established in the North Central Region where states could pool their technical and educational resources to more effectively respond in times of a disaster. During the 1993 disaster, the states did share some important human resources, but they thought that they could do better.

DeWitt submitted a multi-state proposal for $80,000 to CSREES. Shortly after the grant was funded, DeWitt changed jobs, and it was agreed that Illinois and Missouri would move forward with the proposal. The University of Illinois sub-contracted with ISU, and Peter Bloome agreed to serve as the new Principal Investigator for the grant. The NCR Extension directors were asked to designate one representative per state to serve on a regional committee and to attend a fall 1995 meeting in Kansas City. The main issues that surfaced during that meeting were:

  • How can we share the resources we already have that apply to disasters?
  • What resources are available or missing that would be used by the North Central states in the types of disasters that we typically experience?
  • How can we provide training to Extension staff members in emergency management?
  • How can we promote scholarly research and efforts that would support this area if Extension were to play a role in it?
  • Where can we go to find funds that might support these efforts?

At a second meeting in Kansas City in May 1996, the representatives brought more ideas for collaboration. On the last day, participants agreed the “disaster reduction group” needed a name. The key driving principle was development of a network or collaboration between the 12 NCR states to respond as a system/region to future disasters. Four key words described that vision-“Extension… Disaster … Education…Network,” thus the name and acronym of EDEN were born. EDEN’s growth into a national network can especially be related to three events:

  • Joe Wysocki, then National Program Leader for Housing and Environment, arranged for the NCR EDEN committee to meet in New Orleans as third party to a 1997 joint meeting of the American Association of Housing Educators and the Southeast Louisiana Flood Mitigation Task Forces. EDEN asked Louisiana to provide leadership for beginning its
    move to a national rather than a regional network. By 2005, all 50 states and three territories had institutions as EDEN members.
  • September 11, 2001, raised the profile of disaster management and, of specific relevance to EDEN and USDA, the importance of protecting the nation’s food supply. EDEN’s principle support since that time has been from the Food and Agriculture Defense Initiative (FADI).
  • From July 2002 to June 2004, CSREES Special Needs funds provided grants to 17 member states to provide disaster education/emergency management training for their Extension educators, and continues to require that recipients of Special Needs funding extend the benefits of their project using the EDEN network and its resources.

Since 2003, NIFA has provided EDEN with funding to support EDEN coordination and communications, Web development and maintenance, curriculum development, training, and resources development.