On Sept. 19, 2014, the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources at the University of Connecticut held a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Cooperative Extension Program. The extension service is a joint state-federal program enacted by Congress in 1914 to disseminate knowledge to the agricultural community to better their awareness of the latest in agricultural information. The legislation was known as the Smith-Lever Act, and it provides funding for outreach endeavors at the Land Grant Universities through the Cooperative Extension System. UConn Extension provides the means of delivering information accumulated from research to every community in the state to help them solve real problems and develop strong local economies. Today there are more than 100 Extension specialists working in the UConn system, with the main office located on the Storrs campus. The Extension Services off-campus classrooms include high-tech greenhouse, coastal estuaries, elementary school gardens, municipal town halls and community centers for high-risk teens.
The celebration was held in a large tent located on the great lawn of the UConn campus. The food served during the meal put great emphasis on locally grown products and produce, from the huge variety of cheeses to the dessert. The Extension Service extended special thanks to the Jones Family Farm, a three-generation UConn Extension Partner, for providing Connecticut-grown wines for the dinner.
Jenny Riggs, a Hartford County Extension Council Member, was the chairperson of the event and she introduced the speakers who offered words of congratulations to the Extension Program. Senator Richard Blumenthal offered some reminisces of his teen years working on his grandfather’ farm in the Midwest, where one of his chores was cleaning out the cow barn. Gregory Weidemann, dean of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources reviewed the history of the Extension Program and looked down the road in anticipation of things to come, some of which have already arrived. UConn extension produced the first UConn phone app through the Center for Land Use Education and Research and has announced the first student app challenge. This past year, the extension personnel conducted nearly 300 formal outreach programs supported in part by nearly $7 million in grants and nearly 18,000 young people were enrolled in county 4-H programs. UConn Master Gardeners donated more than 23,000 hours of service to Connecticut communities. Records show that every town in Connecticut received no fewer than 11 extension programs with some receiving 30 or more.
Upon concluding his remarks, the Dean read an official statement from Governor Dannel P. Malloy honoring and recognizing the significance of the Smith-Lever Act establishing the Cooperative Extension System at the University of Connecticut. Other speakers who offered words of congratulations were University Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives, Lawrence K. Silbart, Steven K. Reviczky, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture; and Rineicha Otero, a 2012 graduate in nutritional science now working as a UConn Extension Specialist.
The Extension Service touches almost every person in the state in some way. The likelihood is that many of them are unaware of that intervention or even aware that such an entity exists, but the reality is that its effects and benefits are far-reaching and supportive to all. May the next 100 years be as successful as the first 100.