What is cooperative extension?

  • Number of extension agents in the West

    Diane Sylvain
 

Note: This article is a sidebar to one of this issue's feature stories, What does the West need to know?, in a special issue about the West's land grant universities and their extension programs.

The West's extension agents cover some ground: They counsel Colorado wheat farmers whose crops are being nibbled by antelope, broadcast advice on pest control over the radio waves in Washington's apple country and help farm kids raise prize calves. They distribute press releases with titles like: "New Crop Year Should Include Personal Stress Management," "New Videos Offer Tips on Controlling Gophers and Ground Squirrels," "Fat-Free Doesn't Mean Calorie-Free" and "Hog Cutback."

Cooperative Extension was formed by Congress in 1914 as an adjunct to the land-grant university system. Do-everything county agents and regional specialists - which together number about 1,500 in the West - often consult university researchers to answer local questions. The two systems were mandated to help rural people stay productive and prosperous. They are funded by a combination of federal, state and county funds.

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