Extension service turns 100 around Ohio

Ohio State University celebrates 100 years of cooperation extension and looks forward to the years to come.

On May 8, 1914 Congress passed the Smith-Lever Act establishing the cooperative extension service. Extensions foundation was set long before 1914 with Congress passing the 1862 Morrill Act giving land-grant universities to every U.S. state, focused on providing education in the fields of agriculture and mechanics. Congress liked what the Morrill Act was doing but soon realized that they needed a reliable source for their information and teaching. So 25 years after the Morrill Act was passed Congress passed the Hatchet Act which gave funding for land-grant universities to do research related to agriculture and rural life. The idea was working great. We were learning and teaching so much about agriculture and the industry was strongly growing. However, Congress still saw one problem that needed to be solved. The land-grant universities were struggling to reach the audience they needed to -rural America. So in 1914 Congress passed the Smith-Lever Act. This established the cooperative extension service, the “outreach” arm of the land-grant university. This allowed for the unbiased, research-based information to get to rural America.

Extension is just as important today as it was in 1914. In today’s society we have more information at our fingertips than Congress could have ever imagined in 1914. But with so much information coming at us so fast there is concern of credibility in the formation. Extension provides a source of “unbiased, research-based” information to citizens across the country. In Ohio, extension has an office in every county and offers programs in four key areas: Agriculture and Natural Resources, Family and Consumers Sciences, Community Development, and 4-H Youth Development.

Agriculture and Natural Resources provides education and answers questions not only related to production agriculture, but also works with home gardeners and land owners on issues like wildlife management and water quality.

Family and Consumer Sciences help families/households to improve their nutrition, finances, and relationships.

Community Development helps local communities and businesses with economics of gaining and retaining businesses, dealing with regional food systems, and exploring alternative energy sources.

4-H Youth Development is probably the most recognized area among the general public. This program focuses on educating the next generation. Kids can choose to learn from hundreds of projects, on anything from animals, to acquiring social skills, and even conducting science experiments.

Extension is proudly celebrating 100 years of education and is making plans for what the future of the organization may look like.

Levi A. Morrow is Agricultural & Natural Resources program coordinator for The Ohio State University Extension-Washington County, 202 Davis Ave., Marietta.