In 1862, the Morrill Act was passed which established the land grant universities which for Indiana is Purdue University. Purdue was founded in 1869, establishing a center for advanced learning and study, which at that time was primarily agriculturally focused.
The passage of the Morrill Act was somewhat a miracle due to the fact that the southern plantation states were opposed to the act that would further education.
However, the succession of the southern states at the onset of the Civil War enabled the passage of the act due to the absence of the opposition.
While there was extensive learning and studying occurring, there was very little application of this knowledge to the real world. In 1887, the Hatch Act established the Experiment Stations where real world trials and comparisons occurred. Every effort was made to collocate Experiment Stations with Land Grant Universities to be more efficient.
By the early 1900's, the realization that information was not getting out to the common citizenry caused concern. In 1914, the Smith-Lever Act established the Cooperative Extension Service where agents conducted educational demonstrations.
There are early, interesting pictures of Extension Agents on trains speaking to hundreds of people as they went from town to town. Extension started with its roots being totally agriculture related. The need to reach individuals early in life resulted in initiating the 4-H Youth program we know today. Home economics demonstrations initiated the Consumer Family Science Program we know today. This history is much abbreviated for this column, but provides a glimpse of Extension's roots.
Today Extension consists of four primary program areas: 4-H Youth, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Consumer Family Science, and Economic & Community Development. 4-H Youth is much more than the county fair. 4-H Youth Educators collaborate with teachers for school programs, conduct after school programs, and organize numerous workshops. However staying up with all of the 4-H clubs and volunteers is a job in and of itself. Obviously the leadership of a good 4-H Youth Educator is important, but the volunteers are who make the 4-H program happen each year. 4-H is also far more reaching than agriculture with hundreds of projects in life skills and career development aside from agriculture.
Consumer Family Science (CFS) has moved away from home interior and fashion and is now focused on social and nutritional matters. In particular, programs on abstinence and reducing teen pregnancy, healthier eating to reduce diabetes and physical fitness through diet and exercise are examples of consumer family science programs. CFS Educators also provide training that is required by food service workers. Extension Homemaker groups continue to be part of the CFS Educator program thrust through lessons and demonstrations that are presented to these groups.
Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) programs have also changed substantially over time. The ANR Educator is responsible for providing private applicator recertification program training. By state law, the ANR Educator also sits on the county plan commission. ANR Educators answer many questions that come into the office and make visits to residences answering questions ranging from insects, species id, plant diseases, and farm issues.
Other activities of the ANR Educator are varied based on local needs. Examples locally include garden programs, Master Naturalist, community blood drives, marketing workshops, bee keeping, first responder training, and partnering with other organizations or agencies to conduct workshops.
Economic and Community Development (ECD) programs have not had the resources provided to make huge impact to date locally. This is certainly a need and statewide Extension is seeking more resources for ECD and is working through program reorganization efforts. In fact in 2005 the name of the program was changed from Leadership & Community Development to the new ECD name. About a couple dozen counties have Extension Educators who commit 20 percent or more of their time to the ECD program.
You can contact the local Purdue Extension Office by calling 829-5020 ext. 14 in Owen County or 448-9041 in Clay County for more information or publication copies regarding this week's column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events. Please call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs. While most publications are free, some do have a fee. All times listed are Eastern Time.
Feb. 7 Annie's Project (1st of six-week program), Sullivan, 1 p.m.
Feb. 9 Shrimp Conference, Martinsville, 8:30 a.m.
Feb. 9 Bi-state Livestock Conference, North Vermillion High School
Feb. 13-16 National Farm Machinery Show, Louisville, Ky.
Feb. 19 Southwest Indiana Crop Clinic, Jasper, 8 a.m.
Feb. 20-21 Women in Ag Conference, Columbus
Feb. 23 The Sensual Garden, Greencastle, 8 a.m.
Feb. 26 Starting Bee Keeping, Session two of four, Spencer, 6:30 p.m.
March 13 Ag Day Dinner, Brazil, 6:30 p.m.
April 2 Starting a Community Kitchen, Indianapolis, 8 a.m.
April 24 Starting a Specialty Food Business, Indianapolis, 8 a.m.