Happy 100th Birthday Extension!

On May 8, Land-Grant Universities will be celebrating the 100th Birthday of Extension — 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act!


Before I tell you  about the Smith-Lever Act, let me backtrack a minute and tell you about the Morrill Act. The Morrill Act (named after Vermont Congressman Justin Morrill) was signed into place on July 2, 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln. It was officially titled “An Act Donating Public Lands to the Several States and Territories which may provide Colleges for the Benefit of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts.” The Morrill Act provided each state with 30,000 acres of federal land for each member in their Congressional delegation. The land was then sold by the states and the proceeds were used to fund public colleges that focused on agriculture and mechanical arts. Sixty-nine colleges were funded by these land grants (aka Land-Grant Universities (great map at this link)), including the University of Nebraska, Cornell University, Clemson University, Texas A&M University, Kansas State University, and many others.

Justin Morrill’s Civil War photograph.

In 1914, Senators Hoke Smith of Georgia and A.F. Lever of South Carolina introduced the Smith-Lever Act with the intent to expand in rural America through the creation of Cooperative Extension programs. On May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith -Lever Act into Law and called it “one of the most significant and far-reaching measures for the education of adults ever adopted by any government”. The cooperative extension model placed an extension professional in the county (in local communities) to improve people’s lives. The Smith-Lever Act specifically stated its purpose, “In order to aid in diffusing among the people of the United States useful and practical information on subjects relating to agriculture, uses of solar energy with respect to agriculture, home economics, and rural energy, and to encourage the application of the same, there may be continued or inaugurated in connection with the college of colleges in each State, Territory, or possession . . .”

The Smith-Lever Act was vital for creating federal law and providing funding for outreach in the areas of vocation, agriculture, and home demonstration programs  at Land-Grant Universities. The Smith-Lever Act was unique in that it set up a shared partnership among the Federal, State, and County levels of government. In support of the new program achieving stability and leveraging resources, a funding formula mechanism was designed to insure that there was support from each of the levels. The Smith-Lever Act brought a systemic process for funding the on-going Extension education work that had been started in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by educators such as Seaman A. Knapp, A.B. Graham, Jane McKimmon, and Booker T. Washington with the signing of the Morrill Act.

With the Smith-Lever Act, Land-Grant Universities began to support Boys’ and Girls’ clubs as a way to incorporate modern agricultural methods into the farming communities. These clubs later became known as 4-H!

An image from the Nebraska State Historical Society of a Boys’ and Girls’ Club.
An image from the Nebraska State Historical Society of a Boys’ and Girls’ Club.

The Smith-Lever Act was later amended to be more inclusive of schools beyond the original funding for 1862 Land-Grant Institutions. In 1971, Representative Frank E. Evans from Colorado presented a proposal to USDA that amended the funding formula and gave an appropriation in the amount of $12.6 million directly to the 1890 Land-Grant Universities for research and Extension.  Additionally, in 1994, there was a second revision to the proposal which added the Tribal Colleges, in order to increase the system’s ability to serve Native American communities.

Check with your state’s Land-Grant University or local Extension office to see what festivities they have planned near you. You can also follow the celebration on Twitter at @Ext100years

If you are new to Extension I encourage you to seek out your local office. Extension professionals are your connection to the Land-Grant University and the research that is happening there. It is the job of my colleagues and I to help enrich your lives through a variety of youth and adult opportunities and educational efforts on a large variety of topics.

Here is a video the University of Nebraska made to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Extension!







Stepping on the scale and ear piercing time!

In Nebraska it is the time of year when 4-H and FFA market beef animals are officially weighed and tagged.

In case you need a refresher, 4-H is the nation’s largest youth development and empowerment organization that reaches more than 7 million youth. In Nebraska, youth need to be 8 to 18 years of age to be in 4-H, and one in every three age eligible youth are members of 4-H! The Future Farmers of America (FFA) is also a youth organization, but for high school youth only. This organization helps in the development of leadership, personal growth, and career success. Both are excellent youth development organizations you should check out if you are not yet familiar with them.

As I was saying, market beef (market beef can be steers (males) and/or heifers (females)) weigh-in and tagging days are occurring across the state. It is important to have an “official” record of all animals (and all projects for that matter) that these youth want to exhibit at a fair or other exhibition. Since beef are the largest animal and will need the most time to grow, they are weighed and tagged earlier than the other animals youth can take (i.e. pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, poultry).

Each beef animal receives an official ear tag. An ear tag is a flexible piece of plastic that is put in the ear as a means to identify the animal, very similar to an earring for a person. This ear tag cannot be removed (unless cut) and it is unique to the animal, meaning no other animal will have the same number. The animal will keep this tag until it is harvested for meat, or returned to a breeding herd (applies to females, aka heifers, only). Sometimes a tag can fall out or get ripped out of the ear, but for the most part the animal never looses it. (Disclaimer: I am not promoting a brand, I just wanted to show you how a beef animal is tagged.)

Other means of identification are a nose print, yes you read that right, a nose print. Just like no two people will have the same fingerprints, no no two cattle will have the same nose print. Since a nose print never changes this can be a great way to ensure the same animal that was weighed and tagged in January is being shown in July or September.

We can also pull a few hairs and follicles from the tail switch to get DNA on an animal. Like the nose print, the DNA will never change and it is a great way to also ensure that the same animal entered is the same one shown many months later. Additionally, many of the larger livestock shows require that a hair sample has been pulled on all animals entered.

Once the animal has been tagged, or identified, it is weighed. This will be the beginning weight. Today I was the official “scale master” and weighed all of the animals; the majority weighed between 500 and 800 pounds. It is important for youth to know how much their animal weighs now so they can determine how much they want their animal to weigh at fair. For example, if a steer weighed 600 pounds today (January 4) and the youth wants it to weigh 1250 on July 28; that is 205 days, and it needs to gain 650 pounds. So the youth will need to set a goal for it to gain at least 3.2 pounds a day. That goal is very obtainable. It also teaches youth management of their animal and the animal’s diet, record keeping, and goal setting.

So despite the cold temperatures, Extension folks across Nebraska and many other states are weighing and tagging beef animals in preparation for livestock shows that won’t happen for many months to come. It is all in a day’s work!

Market beef animals waiting for their turn – many thanks to all of the volunteers and parents that helped today!

This steer is sporting an official ear tag and is getting an official weight!

What did you do today?