This is the 100th year that Purdue University has provided the Extension program after the signing of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914, which provided funding for the Cooperative Extension Service nationwide.
The Cooperative Extension Service is a network that connects colleges, universities, and the United States Department of Agriculture to provide scientific research-based information and education to the public.
Purdue Extension has Extension educators in every county of Indiana, who provide knowledge and direction in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Health and Human Sciences, Economic and Community Development, and 4-H Youth Development. They are the links between the citizens and the research and scientific improvements that are happening at the Land-Grant Universities.
Extension for Indiana all starts at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. Professors and researchers are finding knowledge and new practices to bring to the public and share it with the Extension educators. There is a network of experts in every field and they are working with Extension programs from other states and specialists around the world as well.
Before Extension, there was the establishment of the Land-Grant Universities by Justin Smith Morrill, who created the Morrill Act that President Lincoln signed into law on July 2, 1862. The Land-Grant Act set aside public land in each state that was to be sold and then the proceeds were used to maintain a college.
The original mission of the Land-Grant Colleges was to teach agriculture, military tactics, and mechanical arts and promote liberal and promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes. After the signing of the Morrill Act, Purdue University was founded in 1869 in West Lafayette, Ind.
With the scientific research and findings at the universities like Purdue in the late 1800s, the universities were trying to find a way to get the new information and practices to the people. They set up farmers’ institutes and movable schools that traveled by boxcars on the railroads to different parts of the states.
The idea of Extension started in 1898 when Seaman Knapp was hired by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to demonstrate research results to local farmers in Louisiana. Knapp is considered the father of Extension because of the work that he did to educate the public with his demonstrations.
Extension became an official program on May 8, 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act. At this point the Extension service became the educational side of the USDA, activities were established within the nationwide system of the Land-Grant Universities, and it was funded by a national, state, and local government partnership.
Extension was involved hand-and-hand with agricultural and economic development throughout history. During the time of the Great Depression, Extension was used to help farmers understand emergency government action programs and they provided home demonstrations on home and money management.
During wartime, Extension was also there to lend a helping hand to citizens. In 1941 Extension was involved in national defense when they took the initiative to feed everyone with “Food and Feed for Family Living” and “Victory Gardens” that were grown on farms and in backyards. The home demonstration agents focused on food conservation during this time and 4-H’ers conducted scrap metal drives.
After the war, Extension focused on planning programs and becoming more involved with local people and local situations. They extended their new areas of outreach to community and rural development and family living.
With the growth of Extension in the 1960s and 1970s community development expanded and the name was changed from Agricultural Extension Service to Cooperative Extension Service. In 1966 Purdue moved to an area approach and established agents in each county and is using the same system today.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Extension began to look into education on production and stress management with the “Farm Crisis.” There was a new system that focused on programming during this time as well. A new outreach started where Extension began collaborating with organizations that held similar goals.
Extension today is all about bringing information and knowledge to the citizens. Although the methods might have changed over time from railroad cars to universities and then the county educators, demonstrations are still a choice method of getting the information out to the public, even with all of the technology changes that have taken place. Since the world is still changing and technology is changing, Extension will always be undergoing the usual process of evaluation and resource redirection in their efforts to provide the high quality knowledge in the best ways possible.