Yavapai County Cooperative Extension History - May 11, 2011
Jeff Schalau, Associate Agent, Agriculture & Natural Resources
University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Yavapai County

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Yavapai County will host an open house at our new Camp Verde office on Friday May 13 between 10 am and 2 pm. Drop by and learn about our educational programs, visit with faculty, staff, and volunteers, and enjoy some refreshments. I’ll look forward to seeing you there, but until then, read on and learn about how Cooperative Extension got to where we are today.

Early agricultural societies in the Europe and Eastern United States would gather locally to compare their agricultural successes and failures. These groups were organized at the county and state levels beginning in the late 1700's. The societies invited guest speakers from colleges, organized fairs and shows, and published journal to disseminate information among the society members. These meetings evolved into Farmer's Institutes lasting two to three days that covered information about farm and home subjects.

In 1862, Abraham Lincoln established the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A few weeks later, the Morrill Act was passed. This legislation provided for Land-Grant Colleges. Up to this time, U.S. colleges taught mostly medicine, theology, and classical and cultural subjects. In the late 1850's several states had adopted the European concept of teaching applied science and agriculture. The Morrill Act provided the basis for Land Grant colleges to teach agriculture and technology.

Many hurdles were in front of the Land-Grant Colleges. Curricula needed to be developed, textbooks were unavailable, professors needed to be hired, and, most importantly, funding needed to be appropriated. By the time professors were hired, most Land Grant colleges had acquired a farm. In the absence of textbooks, classes were held at the farm and simple experiments were underway. College presidents and boards pressured congress and the Hatch Act of 1887 soon provided funding for the Land-Grant farms. Today, these farms are called Experiment Stations.

As the research/teaching farms grew, they began to develop demonstration sites on private farms throughout their state. Demonstration farms were established in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and local farmers. Demonstration farm programs were in communities where other farmers saw the results of new crop varieties and cultural practices. The demonstration farms were operated by the farmer with the assistance of USDA Agents. The farm-demonstration model quickly gained popularity at the turn of the century and early 1900's.

County Agents were a part of the demonstration farm program and were funded by the USDA and various private individuals and commercial organizations. Farm Bureaus were also organized to sponsor county agents in their locally based outreach programs. The Smith-Lever Act was passed in 1914 to provide funding for the county agents and the Extension Service was born. In the following years, county agents taught youth through 4-H Clubs, home-demonstration agents assisted with education in the home, while agriculture agents worked with farmers and ranchers through demonstration projects and Extension outreach programs.

In addition to agricultural programs, Extension agents contributed by assisting with various war efforts, droughts, depression, and economic development of rural communities. Today, Cooperative Extension (as it is now called) still serves the traditional roles of agriculture, home economics, and 4-H. In addition, Cooperative Extension has taken on new charges including youth at risk, natural resource management, land use planning, community development, and other locally relevant issues. Cooperative Extension is funded by federal, state, county, grants, and other local sources.

Arizona's land-grant university is the University of Arizona in Tucson. Construction began on what we now call "Old Main" in 1887. It was completed at a cost of $29,000 in 1889. Demonstration sites were established near Tucson, Phoenix, Tempe, Blaisdell (near Yuma), and Willcox. Prescott also had a substation, called the Prescott Dry Farm, near the junction of Highways 89 and 89A. Yavapai County's first county agent was George Scherer hired on May 1, 1919.

Today, Yavapai County has two Cooperative Extension offices: Camp Verde and Prescott. We also have an Experiment Station: the V Bar V Ranch that extends from Camp Verde to Happy Jack. The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension continues to bring science-based solutions that improve people’s lives to the citizens of Arizona.

Follow the Backyard Gardener on Twitter – use the link on the BYG website. If you have other gardening questions, call the Master Gardener line in the Camp Verde office at 928-554-8999 Ext. 3 or e-mail us at cottonwoodmg@yahoo.com and be sure to include your name, address and phone number. Find past Backyard Gardener columns or provide feedback at the Backyard Gardener web site: http://cals.arizona.edu/yavapai/anr/hort/byg/.

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Arizona Cooperative Extension
Yavapai County
840 Rodeo Dr. #C
Prescott, AZ 86305
(928) 445-6590
Last Updated: May 5, 2011
Content Questions/CMay 5, 2011g.arizona.edu

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