One hundred years ago, the nation’s land-grant colleges and universities — over 100 of them — were entrusted with a mission. That mission was “extension” or “reaching out,” extending their resources to aid the public through non-formal, non-credit programs. These programs are largely administered through the thousands of county and regional extension offices throughout the country.
Congress created the Extension Service with passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914. The act required that the states provide a 100% match to the federal money from non-federal sources. In 1914 more than 50% of the US population lived in rural areas, and 30% of the nation’s workers were engaged in farming. Today fewer than 2% of Americans farm for a living, and only 17% reside in rural areas.
Yet, even in 2014, the Cooperative Extension Service continues to play an important role.
4-H is an Extension Service program.
I became a Master Gardener through UConn Extension. Throughout the growing season, Master Gardeners and new interns staff the extension offices throughout the state, helping homeowners and farmers by diagnosing their problems, dispensing advice, or directing them to the proper authority when the problem is not one they can handle. Master Gardeners also serve as volunteers at educational events, in community gardens, in parks, in city greenhouses… you get the idea. This pdf will give you an idea of the impact of the Extension Service in just my small state.
The websites in each state also provide links to a wealth of materials on a wide variety of topics, both local and general. Check out this directory of fact sheets available through the University of Connecticut Extension site.
The University of Connecticut Extension also offers soil testing (including lead analysis) for a small fee. You can obtain a soil analysis through the mail even if you are not a Connecticut resident, as long as you do not live in an area where there are Fire Ants or Golden Nematodes.
Some states have wonderful gardening guides available for a modest price. If you live in California, you should definitely consider purchasing the California Master Gardener Handbook, a bargain at $30.00 ($24.00 if you buy it through the University of California site).
The Extension Service is funded cooperatively with resources from the state and national levels. Most services are free. And, quite likely, there is an office very near you.
Happy Birthday, Cooperative Extension Service!
Why Saturday Short Subjects? Some readers may recall being dropped at the movie theater for the Saturday matinee — two action-packed feature films with a series of short subjects (cartoons or short movies, sometimes a serial cliffhanger) sandwiched in between. Often the short subjects were the most memorable, and enjoyable, part of the morning. That explains the name. The reason behind these particular posts is that we are all short on time. My Short Subject posts should not take me as long to write or you as long to read (or try).