100 years of OSU Extension celebrated

| May 6, 2014

This week marks an exciting birthday. On May 8, 1914 Congress signed an act to establish the Cooperative Extension Service which would extend the reach of education into rural communities. We live in a time where information is so readily available to us that we can easily forget the educational and communication challenges of decades past.

So what was the world like in 1914? Babe Ruth debuted in the major leagues and Charlie Chaplin starred in his first film. The Ford Motor Company was beginning to mass produce the Model T with the new assembly line concept. A gallon of milk was 32 cents, but you would have purchased by the quart instead. A gallon of gas was 12 cents. And most notably the summer of 1914 marked the beginning of the first World War.

In the midst of all of this, two men had a vision for an approach to education that would change America. Representative Asbury Lever from South Carolina and Senator Michael Hoke Smith from Georgia together submitted a proposal that would “aid in diffusing among the people of the United States useful and practical information on subjects relating to agriculture, uses of solar energy with respect to agriculture, home economics, and rural energy, and to encourage the application of the same…” On May 8, 1914 Congress signed what we know of today as the Smith-Lever Act.

As a result, this established the Cooperative Extension Service, a unique educational partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the nation’s land-grant universities that extends research-based knowledge through a state-by-state network of Extension educators.

Here in Ohio, the land grant university has been The Ohio State University since 1870. “Land grant” is just what it sounds like. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act in 1862, which gave 10,000 acres of Federal government land to each state to sell and use the proceeds to create a public university to teach agriculture and the mechanic (engineering) arts. This was followed by another act a few years later to create Agricultural Experiment Stations to conduct agricultural research. Over time students received excellent instruction in campus classrooms and data was generated from the many studies conducted at research stations. But the public university’s mission is to serve all the citizens of the state. A system was needed to disseminate the information through non-formal education.  As a result, Extension was born so that the land grant system could truly be the “people’s colleges” as Lincoln had envisioned.

Following WWI we received our first Extension agent in Coshocton County. In December 1918 the County Commissioners voted to appropriate $1,250 to support the salary of a “farm agent.” On Feb. 1, 1919 Grover C. Musgrove began as the first county agent in Coshocton County. He was followed by ten agriculture agents. Paul Golden served in this position the longest from 1978-2007 and 2010-2012.

Harriet Green started as the home demonstration/ home economics agent in 1936. She worked with adult homemaker groups as well as youth. Miss Green served 31 years as an agent in our county, retiring in 1966. Any girl who was a part of the 4-H program at this time has a memory associated with Miss Green. I’ve had many women share stories of striving for perfection in their sewing projects because of her. There have been seven home economic agents, now called Family & Consumer Science Educators, in Coshocton County, the last being Kate Herb Shumaker in 2005.

The first official 4-H agent was Lawrence E. Sarbaugh who began in 1946. However, 4-H began in Coshocton County long before that. The first corn and calf clubs started in 1917. When Mr. Musgrove came to Coshocton, he organized the existing clubs into 4-H clubs and established many more. At that time boys belonged to a club to learn about a specific livestock animal, often pigs, or for girls it was a club to mainly learn to preserve food through canning. There have been fifteen 4-H agents in Coshocton County with Sarah Jane Lindsey serving the longest tenure at 31 years from 1979-2009.

For many years the Extension Office was located in the basement of the Post Office, which is now the Coshocton Public Library. The Extension Office is now Room 110 in the County Services Building. Current employees with OSU Extension in Coshocton County include Emily Adams, Debbie Bowman, Jenny Cherry, Kim Gress, Laura Mikulik, Tammi Rogers, Hannah Roush, and Janet Smith. Our programs focus on strengthening families and communities, preparing youth for success, enhancing agriculture and the environment, and advancing employment and income opportunities.

Currently there are over 700 4-H members developing life skills like problem solving and teamwork with the help of over 250 adult volunteers. 4-H members still complete projects like members did a century ago. But now these projects encompass many additional topics like electricity, photography and shooting sports to name just a few.  Coshocton County elementary students are also learning science skills through in-school programs like ChickQuest and Rockets Away.

Another program area is the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program which helps adults with limited resources make healthy, safe, and budget-friendly food choices. Also last year seventeen Master Gardener Volunteers worked over 1,000 volunteer hours to educate home gardeners and beautify our community. Over 200 area farmers attended programs and farm visits related to topics like agronomy, farm transition and estate planning, management intensive grazing and fresh produce safety.

For 100 years, the Smith-Lever Act has stimulated innovative research and vital educational programs for youth and adults that have improved lives and shaped a nation.  I look forward to sharing more with you about 100 years of Extension programs that have enriched people’s lives and strengthened our community. Be on the lookout each week this summer for more OSU Extension history. Have the programs and people of OSU Extension made a positive difference in your life? If so, I would like to learn about your experiences. Please e-mail me at [email protected] or call the Extension Office at 622-2265.

Editor’s note: This article was contributed to The Beacon by Emily G. Adams, OSU Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources , County Extension Director



Tags: , ,

Category: Clubs & Organizations, Multimedia, Photo Galleries

About the Author ()

Article contributed to The Beacon.

Comments are closed.