Tammy Walker, with the Scott County Office of Purdue Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, recently spoke at a Kiwanis dinner/meeting at The Kitchen on The Square in Scottsburg. Tammy has been with the Purdue Extensive Service since 2002, and before that she worked at the University of Arkansas and Montana University. Pictured are Kiwanian LL Lowry and Tammy Walker.
She began her presentation by saying that she wanted to talk to the club “about the history of extension, then we’ll talk a little bit about what’s happening in the community today.”
In 1785 the first Agricultural Society was established in Philadelphia to promote and share information related to agriculture. The concept spread. These societies promoted agriculture through publications, idea exchanges, and agricultural fairs. So here is the key to extensions: it was in Ag Societies, which is where all of the United States and the territories were.
The United States was the very first country to set up university education for the ‘every man,’ and they did it through land grants. The Morrill Act of 1862 donated federal lands to states to sell with proceeds utilized for the ‘endowment, support, and maintenance’ of a college focused on agriculture, mechanics, and military tactics’ in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life. Seaman Knapp, often known as the ‘Father of Extension,’ pioneered the concept of demonstration work which served as a pedagogical model for Extension. The Morrill Act of 1890 provided further support for Land-Grant Universities and authorized funding for separate institutions for blacks in states that denied access to the 1862 land-grant universities. This act paved the way for black Land-Grant Colleges to contribute to the growth and development of Extension. George Washington Carver pioneered the concept of the ‘movable school,’ a horse-drawn ‘Jessup Wagon’ from which he provided direct education to local farm families.
For education everybody except the very wealthy looked to Extension in their local communities. Because the grown-ups were set in their ways and were disinclined to pay attention to new ideas, they were not as likely to listen to new ideas about how to better produce crops, so boys’ corn clubs and girls’ tomato and canning clubs were developed across the country and were utilized as vehicles for extending university knowledge to adults through their children. These clubs were a way of extending university knowledge to adults through their children. These were the precursors of 4-H.
The Extension model was created on the same concept as the missionaries. A lot of the things that we do in Extension is trust-building. Extension was the vehicle for facilitating communication between farmers and neighbors.
In 1906 W.C. Stallings was appointed by the USDA as the first County Extension Agent [in Smith County, Texas]. The idea spread and the number of county agents grew to 450 in 1910 and 580 in 1911. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established Cooperative Extension as a partnership between the land grant universities and the USDA. Extension’s purpose was to diffuse useful and practical information to the people in areas related to agriculture, home economics, and rural energy.
At this time the Homemakers clubs were started. A lot of times those women were the only people giving parenting advise to young mothers. And so those women’s clubs started teaching them best practices, helping to diffuse that information across the communities.
Extension agents’ primary job is to help the community analyze its problems in the light of available information and so to organize itself that the necessary actions can be taken.
Extension was created on the missionary model. Your job is to get to know the locals. Live in the community and become a local. Win trust. Then you become a conduit between the community and the university. The extension agent fits into the community and then serves as a conduit to the university.
Extension has six program areas: 4-H Youth Development; Agriculture; Leadership Development; Health and Human Sciences; and Community and Economic Development.
Walker’s job is split 50-50 between H-H Youth Development and Health and Human Sciences, but she also helps in other areas as needed. The other Extension agent in the Scott County office focuses on Ag and Natural Resources and 4-H Youth Development.
There are Extension office in every county in every state. The extension service provides educational programs and assistance on all kinds of issues and subjects. They also help people to develop and present their own programs. They are facilitators, jacks of all trades. They teach classes when asked to, and they assist others is developing programs and presentations. “It’s pretty much the most entrepreneurial job that I could ever think of, that isn’t entrepreneurial.”
They teach community outreach courses, work with the Scott County Coalition, and try to identify needs, and then develop methods and programs to deal with them. They are facilitators. The Kiwanis thanked Tammy for her interesting and informative presentation.