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Purdue Extension mission highlighted during centennial

Purdue Extension is reaffirming its mission of serving the needs of people and helping to make their communities stronger as the Cooperative Extension Service nationwide celebrates its centennial this year.

The commemoration centers on the federal Smith-Lever Act of May 8, 1914, which created the national Extension system.

The centennial observance, however, isn't only about looking back - it's also about planning for the future, said Purdue Extension Director Jason Henderson.

"The past 100 years provide a strong foundation for Extension, but we also are preparing for the next 100 years of relevant, university-based information to continue improving lives and communities throughout Indiana," Henderson said.

Gov. Mike Pence noted in a proclamation that Extension's work includes:

* Providing research-based information that has helped farmers and ranchers established the U.S. as a world leader in agriculture.

* Reaching millions of young people in 4-H programs.

* Lifting people out of poverty and preparing them for healthy, productive lives through educational programs.

* Providing assistance through rapid response during disasters and other emergencies such as floods, drought and outbreaks of infectious diseases.

* Engaging with rural and urban leaders to foster community vitality.

Pence encouraged the people of Indiana “to observe and celebrate the centennial of the Smith-Lever Act with a focus on launching an innovative and sustainable future for Purdue Cooperative Extension.”

From its early days to the present, Extension has always been “a people business,” said Fred Whitford, an Extension specialist who has written three books that include history of Extension.

“While some issues then and now are different, Extension's core mission of providing service that improves the lives of people and their communities has never changed,” he said.

Extension's mission is illustrated by the experience of farmer Mike Horrall, who credits Purdue Extension with helping producers maintain safe agricultural practices on behalf of consumers. Horrall, of Melon Acre Farms in Oaktown, was among more than 100 melon producers who attended a 2012 Purdue Extension workshop in Vincennes following an outbreak of Salmonellatraced to cantaloupes. He said Purdue Extension provided information crucial to helping prevent foodborne illnesses.

“The big message I got from it was that methods for food safety are changing, and we all have to change in growing, processing and storing our produce,” Horrall said. “Purdue Extension provides the resources in getting that done.”