County Extension Service now 90 years old

Monday, August 5, 2002

Thursday marked the 90th birthday for the Cape Girardeau County Extension Service. Mary Gosche, Human Development Specialist for the Service, said the Extension Service has come a long way since its beginning on Aug. 1, 1912.

She said the progress of the Extension Service will be honored at the Extension's Annual Picnic to be held this month.

"We will be honoring several people who have been very important in the Extension Service's development," Gosche said.

Gosche said the extension's birthday marks the beginning of cooperation between farmers and the University of Missouri in the interest of agriculture.

In Cape Girardeau County, the program now allows residents to obtain soil samples, take tests for independent study courses, attend workshops and satellite downlinkings, and have access to personal consultations concerning agriculture, child development and family living, and business.

The first extension office was opened in Jackson, Mo., by C.M. McWilliams, making Cape Girardeau County the first county in the state to have an agent.

Started with land grants

The program began with the federal Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The first Morrill Act gave grants of land to states with the provision that proceeds from the sale of the land be used to establish public colleges or universities. The purpose of land grant universities was to educate citizens in agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts and other "practical" professions.

The second Morrill Act provided added funds to make sure that the institutions were open to all citizens, without regard to race.

Then in 1914, Congress passed the Smith-Lever Act, which established the Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service, a partnership among federal, state and county governments. The idea for this federal legislation was to deliver the practical benefits of education and scientific research to U.S. citizens, improving their economic prospects and quality of life. It required the universities to extend their programs to all people, not just students on their campuses.

Extension workers demonstrated to their constituents how to produce more and better varieties of agricultural commodities; how to benefit from better nutrition, clothing and housing; and how to work together to bring about major improvements, such as electric cooperatives. As the population shifted to the cities, programs were incorporated for urban populations.

4-H added on

In 1927, 4-H became part of the cooperative extension, and today, one of five Missouri youths, ages 5 to 19, participate in a 4-H program. In Cape Girardeau County, there are 13 clubs with 250 members. Over 165 adult volunteers are involved in leadership roles.

In 1955, state legislation required extension councils to be publicly elected to govern the educational programs offered in each county by the University of Missouri. Over 2,000 citizen volunteers currently donate their time and effort to extension programs, and the residents of Cape Girardeau County helped to raise more than $500,00 for the extensions' new facility at 684 W. Jackson Trail in Jackson.

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