By Hugh Earnhart
OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer
A century old and it seems like only yesterday. One-hundred candles on the cake and Happy Birthday to The Ohio State University — Extension.
On May 8, 1914, the Congress of the United States passed the Smith-Lever Act, which provided for a system of agricultural extension work based on the cooperation between the Department of Agriculture and the Land-Grant colleges. Federal Grant-in-Aid funds were to be matched by state and local appropriations in carrying out the programs. The legislation necessitated the creation of The Ohio State University-Extension program.
The two authors of the bill, South Carolina Rep. Asbury Lever and Georgia Sen. Michael Smith, were longtime supporters of agricultural issues in the early years of the 20th century.
The Smith-Lever Act originally provided for two extension program areas — agriculture and home economics. That reflected the support for farm families. In a short period of time two new programs were developed: 4-H and community development. Later, the agricultural field expanded into agricultural and natural resources. To meet the needs of the world, home economics is now known as family and consumer sciences. The community development program focuses on the health of the community and businesses.
In 100 years, the extension service has developed into the world’s largest informal education system that stimulates research and educational programs to benefit adult and youth interests.
The reason for the program in 1914 was rural agricultural needs. Today it is an all-encompassing strategy that meets the demands of urban and rural necessities.
The benefits of the legislation were evident almost from the beginning. The nation made good use of the research and education during the years of the Depression, the agricultural production in World War II, the rebuilding of Europe in the 1950s, and urban sprawl in the final decades of the last century.
The Ohio State University-Extension Service has, as its mission, “to strengthen the lives of people in the community through research-based educational programs.”
Extension service is a dynamic educational entity that links with families, individuals, businesses and industries, and organizations to improve the lives of those within the state.
The next 100 years will see additional programs that will extend knowledge and change lives.