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Celebrating 100 Years

Celebrating 100 Years

Extension Recognizes Centennial

No four words hold more truth to those involved in Extension than, “Extending knowledge, changing lives.”

Annie Peters Hunter of Boley, Okla., served as the nation’s first federally appointed black home demonstration agent. Two years before the Smith-Lever Act formally created the Cooperative Extension Service in 1914, she was helping families in Seminole, Okfuskee and Okmulgee counties to conserve resources, create a little income, and safely raise and preserve food for survival.

A century later, the methods, technology and knowledge have changed, and the challenges and choices facing Oklahomans are different. But Extension is still helping today’s families and agricultural producers survive through research-based programs and initiatives that enhance their lives.

In honor of Extension’s 100th anniversary in 2014, “The Division Triangle” pauses to honor the past and celebrate the present through the words of those who lived and are living the organization’s rich history.

-LM

Q&A with Jan Montgomery and Jeff Edwards

Our world has changed drastically over the course of 100 years, and Extension is no exception. The methods of delivering research-based information to the public have gone from shouting off the back of trains to using social media outlets. Jan Montgomery and Jeff Edwards provide personal insight about their Extension careers both past and present, respectively.

Jan Montgomery (OSU Career: 1969-1997)

What was your greatest challenge working in Extension?
Extension work was very challenging, requiring long hours and hard work. Our greatest challenge was very much as it is today, county budgets and high visibility for our Extension programs.

What was your main method for delivering information to the public?
We relied on printed fact sheets, newsletters and other means of getting information to clients. There were a few Extension users who had computers, but they were rare in county offices, and we were not fully trained in using them. Today, we have new audiences who are mostly very computer savvy and staffs who are very well trained in using computers to research current information and deliver information to clients much more quickly.

What was the biggest change in Extension during your tenure?
Our staff worked hard to design programs that were relevant and reached a broad audience. We were involved in going from a lot of one-one contacts to more of a leader-led approach to delivering programs. We had many group meetings addressing current problems and concerns.

What is Extension’s greatest challenge moving forward?
I feel that Extension’s greatest challenge in the next several years will be dealing with a much younger audience that is working full time on jobs outside the home. They also need to stay involved with the needs of larger landowners, corporate ranchers and farmers, as well as meet needs of local homeowners with urban horticulture needs. Extension workers of the future will be working closely with small business owners, local chambers of commerce and organized efforts to increase new businesses.

Jeff Edwards (OSU Career: 2004-Present)

What drew you toward a career in Extension?
I enjoy public speaking, solving problems and helping people. Extension allowed me to do all three and live in a college town while doing so.

What has been Extension’s greatest contribution during your time?
I feel the land-grant university system and Extension have done an outstanding job of increasing the agronomic knowledge of our clientele. This solid base of agronomic knowledge has allowed farmers to become early adopters of new technologies, often before we have had a chance to thoroughly evaluate the technologies.

What has been the biggest change in Extension during your tenure?
The use of technology. When I started with Extension, most people used email but did so from a desktop computer. Smartphones are now the norm and emails and texts generally result in faster response times than phone messages.

What is your main method for delivering information to the public?
The goal is to provide information in whatever format the consumer is most comfortable with, so I use a mixture. I still write fact sheets and current reports, but I rarely print hard copies anymore because most people prefer to view an electronic version and print it at home.

What is the importance of Extension for the state of Oklahoma?
I like to measure importance based on whether you made a difference in someone’s life. When you help a farmer solve a problem or make a change that will increase their profitability, you have helped someone improve their family’s ability to succeed.

-SH

Extension Prepared for Next 100 Years

Obviously no one knows exactly what the future holds.

But we do know in the next 100 years, considerable time, effort and money will be devoted to feeding, housing and supporting a world population of more than 9 billion.

Even as Extension celebrates a century of putting the land-grant university mission into action, the agency is poised to focus on these and other emerging challenges through its time-tested tradition of research, teaching and outreach.

“We’re proud of our 100-year history of making life better for all Oklahomans, but we know our work is far from finished,” said James Trapp, associate director of Oklahoma Cooperative Extension.

Here in Oklahoma, and across the nation, that work will surely include finding solutions to water and land constraints and developing crops and livestock that withstand the effects of climate volatility and change.

There also will be a need for effective strategies for curbing food waste and addressing health and aging concerns, as well as for programming that meets the ever-widening variety of needs of increasingly diverse audiences.

The bottom line? Extension always has been and always will be about helping families manage life changes and meeting the challenge of providing an ample and safe food supply, Trapp said.

As evidence, he pointed out tractors replaced draft horses. These days, safe and effective chemicals are reducing the need for tractor power through low-till and no-till systems. Tomorrow’s forms of energy will no doubt revolutionize the ways we currently work our fields and raise our animals.

“Looking to the future, I’m confident Extension and land-grant university research will continue to enable our state’s agricultural producers to be a leading source of food for the world, and help all Oklahomans enjoy long, healthy, successful lives,” Trapp said.

-LM

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