100 Years of Cooperative Extension

The year 2014 marks the 100-year anniversary of the Cooperative Extension System, an organization with an exceptional legacy which plays an influential role in improving the quality of life for socially disadvantaged and limited-resource populations in the United States.

The Alcorn State University Extension Program is an arm of the United States Cooperative Extension System, which extends the research-based knowledge acquired by the land-grant university system to educate Mississippians for self-improvement, individual action, and community problem solving.

Alcorn Extension is a statewide educational agency that works closely with the local county governments and is linked in an exceptional partnership with the nationwide Cooperative Extension System as well as state and federal governments.

Dr. Dalton H. McAfee, Extension administrator, states, “The program encourages teaching and professionalism and does research to access and correct human ills in all aspects of agricultural advancement. In essence, the extension system was created to carry knowledge to the people.”

“To understand the extension system, one must first have an understanding of the concept of a land-grant institution,” he states. Land-grant institutions were established by the Morrill Acts (introduced by Representative Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont) to educate the underserved minority populations of the United States.”

The Extension system was born due to the efforts of leaders in the intellectual sphere who wished to share the knowledge acquired by the land-grant universities with underserved populations. It is aimed at extending cutting edge research and technology by disseminating information to the socially disadvantaged and those otherwise underserved. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 clarified this framework by instituting a systemic process for funding the ongoing Extension education work that was started in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Act provided funding to address the needs of rural and urban residents through extending knowledge by the process of teaching, practicality, demonstration, and placing educators in the field to serve the communities.

In essence, the Cooperative Extension’s services are a branch of the land-grant universities which work to inform people and communities about current developments in agriculture, home economics, public policy/government, leadership, 4-H, economic development, and many other related subjects. It also helps farmers to learn new agricultural techniques by the introduction of home instruction and demonstration. In its 100-year history, the extension program has improved countless lives and communities through service in these entities.

According to McAfee, innovations have occurred during the 100 years of Cooperative Extensions existence. “Today we deliver our advances in more technologically efficient ways.”

“We now have the ability to divulge quick access to information through computers. Information can be readily accessed at any time through the Extension website. We encourage electronic record keeping and management, teach proper nutrition and other practical issues relating to health and wellness, demonstrate innovate ways to manage agricultural resources, and have lowered the cost of extending these services to the average citizen.” The list of impressive accomplishments is far reaching and profound!

Due to its practicality, it is no wonder that this system has sustained for a century and is still useful today. McAfee states, “There are 426, 000 limited-resource households living below an annual income of $30,000 in the state of Mississippi. This encompasses more than 42% of the state. The Cooperative Extension Program positively impacts these communities by giving them the knowledge needed to improve their quality of life and properly manage their resources.”

The Extension’s mission is to serve the underserved and limited-resource audiences across the state. It works in partnership with the Mississippi State Cooperative Extension System to identify the needs of the population, and develop programs to address those needs.

“We teach people by a process called transfer learning in which we equip those taught by us to go out and teach others,” McAfee states. “In this manner, we build strong communities.”

The Extension system is actively fulfilling its mission to improve the quality of life for people and communities. “We are proud of our accomplishments and success, and we are excited to celebrate the 100-year extension anniversary.”

The 100 years of Extension was commemorated at the Small Farmers Conference, held March 24-26, at the Jackson Convention Complex in Jackson, Mississippi. Special recognitions and awards were given out during a Centennial Celebration banquet on March 26. In observance of the anniversary, ASUEP hosted a Centennial Reception with the Alcorn family and friends May 8. Also, promotional radio and television broadcasts, as well as other Extension events, are being conducted throughout the year commemorating the anniversary.

Alcorn Extension serves as testament to the positive impact that the University has in the surrounding community, the state and nation. You can visit www.asuextension.com to learn more about this influential organization.

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