Arkansas Cooperative Extension

From reviving historic downtowns, to improving agriculture and establishing the 4-H youth development program, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service has always been there for the community. And it’s been serving Arkansas for more than 100 years.

This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act, which established Cooperative Extension Services nationwide in 1914, but extension work in Arkansas actually predated the law, according to Dr. Tony Windham, associate vice president-agriculture-extension for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

“The first agent, J.A. Evans, was assigned to work in both Arkansas and Louisiana back in 1905,” he says. “Three years later, extension workers organized the first corn club to teach boys how to grow a better crop.”

Since the early 1900s, the extension service has achieved some significant milestones. “We feel our key accomplishment over the last century has been to help improve the quality of life in Arkansas,” Windham says.

In the earliest years, home demonstration agents taught canning and other food safety measures. In the 1930s, county extension agents organized farmers into co-ops, helping with electrification in rural areas. The 1950s brought aid to WWII veterans, helping them integrate labor-saving machinery into their farming operations. In the 1960s, extension agents aided in economic development by creating county councils, while the 1980s brought the first use of computers, the LeadAR program and the Master Gardeners program.

At the end of the 1990s, the extension service moved into a home of its own in Little Rock, a building designed to accommodate the unique educational needs of its faculty and staff.

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In the 21st century, the extension service began developing desktop software to help farmers, and later created apps for use on platforms such as smartphones and tablets.

Windham says that in the next hundred years, it’s even more important for the extension service to not only be where their clients are, but to be there when they need them. “We create and embrace new tools that enable us to deliver our services when and where we’re needed,” he says. “We listen to our county advisory councils and make sure we never lose sight of the problems and issues important to the people the extension service was created to serve. Our public value is our ability to serve individuals, families and whole communities.”

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