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History of Extension

History of Extension

The Cooperative Extension Service is the largest education system of its kind in the world, delivering research- and education-based knowledge directly to the people.

President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Morrill Act in 1862, which created land-grant universities.  The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 officially created the extension services within those institutions. The Cooperative Extension Service is the outreach portion of the colleges of agriculture at land-grant universities.

The Cooperative Extension Service has its roots in helping farmers and ranchers produce crops and livestock.  That mission continues, but now there is an extension office in or near most of the nation’s approximately 3,000 counties with extension agents helping homeowners plan and maintain homes, provide leadership training for community leaders, providing nutrition information for better health, and helping youth learn skills to become tomorrow’s leaders.

Subject specialists are housed within the colleges of agriculture. Specialists conduct research and disseminate their findings and solutions in the areas of agriculture, food and nutrition, environmental sciences and national resources, and youth development.

Providing lifelong learning opportunities is part of the Cooperative Extension Service mission:

* Translating science for practical solutions.

* Identifying emerging research questions, finding answers and encouraging application of science and technology to improve agricultural, economic, and social conditions.

* Preparing people to break the cycle of poverty, encouraging healthful lifestyles, and preparing youth for responsible adulthood.

* Providing rapid response regarding disasters and emergencies

* Connecting people to information and available assistance.


Western Extension Centennial Videos


National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA) – Partners and Extension Map:

National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA) – Cooperative Extension History:

Journal of Extension – Cooperative Extension and the 189 Land-Grant Institution: The Real Story:

Ag in the Classroom – Historical Timeline – Agriculture Education & Extension:

Chapter 1 – The history, development, and future of agricultural extension:

Choices – Cooperative Extension System: Trends and Economic Impacts on U.S. Agriculture:

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