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Celebrating 100 Years of Extension

Posted on Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Tomorrow Extension turns 100!  On May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed into effect the Smith-Lever Act which established the Cooperative Extension Service, a unique educational partnership between the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the nation’s land-grant universities that extends research-based knowledge through a state-by-state network of Extension educators.Extension-Centennial-Pics-1

In Virginia, Extension work had begun years earlier with farm demonstrations by T.O. Sandy of Burkeville in 1906.  Demonstration was a relatively new concept in education at that time and often agents worked with local youth in an effort to reach their parents.  For example, F.S. Farrar of Amelia County organized 100 young boys into “corn clubs” who, using the latest techniques, grew 65 bushel corn on farms which had produced only 17 bushel corn.

Even during the early days, Extension work was not limited to white males.  Girls canning clubs were started in 1910 under the direction of home demonstration agents.  Also, African-American agents were hired to reach African-American communities; the first such agent was appointed in 1906 in Gloucester County.

Extension reached Westmoreland County in November of 1916 when W.R. Linthicum, County Agent in Spotsylvania County, worked part-time with the eighth-grade junior clubs.  In 1917, Clara Delp (later Mrs. C.E. Stuart) organized junior and adult canning, sewing and food demonstration clubs throughout the entire county.  In 1917, Mr. Frier, the first full-time County Agricultural Agent, came to Westmoreland County.