College of Agriculture--Extension reports | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
Purdue University played a major role in the development of Indiana agriculture. In the 1880s the university started interesting experimental work in agriculture. Valuable information on crop rotation, soil fertility, care of livestock, fruit production and marketing, and other numerous farm related topics were generated from the ongoing research. In 1889, the late Professor W.C. Latta became a key figure in the enactment of the Farmer’s Institute Act, which legally recognized the work the university had been doing in holding farm schools and ‘moveable’ schools throughout the state. Some of the activities at the time included Boys’ Corn Clubs, the first county agents were appointed in 1906, along with the appointment of the first home demonstration agents in 1910. This work in turn led to the Clore Act in 1911, which authorized expansion of extension work, under the direction of the Department of Agriculture Extension. On May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act which provided for co-operative relations between state and nation to aid in agricultural education. Extension Service became the educational arm of the United States Department of Agriculture. Forty-two states had extension work in some form in 1914 and 929 counties already employed 1,350 extension workers. By mid-June 1918 nationally 2,435 counties had agriculture agents, 1,715 counties had home demonstration agents and 4-H membership soared to a half million members. Laws affecting extension have helped direct programs during World War 1, the depression, World War II and post-war efforts.
In 1940 about 55,000 Indiana boys and girls between ten and twenty years of age were enrolled in these groups, which led to great improvements in farm life. More than 2,000,000 persons attended in one year the lectures and demonstrations that the county agents, home demonstration agents and specialists from Purdue conducted. In the 1960s and 1970s additional programs were added, and the Agricultural Extension Service was changed to the Cooperative Extension Service, and agent titles were changed to County Extension Agent. In the 1980s and 1990s, the “farm crisis” redirected extension; Indiana combined 10 areas into 5 districts, positions were downsized in 1987, with a strong emphasis on accountability and collaboration with organizations with similar goals.
Extension continues to take the university to the people and the demonstration method is still relevant. The use of new technology has changed information and communication dissemination, and organizational stress and resource redirection is common. The Cooperative Extension Service continues to be proactive, responsive and collaborative, and it is committed to the growth and development of people through life-long learning. The goals are still to empower customers, develop volunteers, build collaborative partnerships, increase the capacity to secure resources, utilize appropriate technologies and communication networks and create a climate for staff to realize their potential.