Tribune-Courier Guest Columnist
On May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed, “This law is one of the most significant and far reaching measures for the education of adults ever adopted by any government,” as he signed the Smith-Lever Act into law.
Introduced by Senator Hoke Smith of Georgia and Representative A. F. Lever of South Carolina, the Smith-Lever Act provided for vocational education in the areas of agriculture and home economics for individuals not attending college and the underlying philosophy of the system was and continues to be to “help people help themselves by taking the university to the people.”
Also known as the Agriculture Extension Act, the law established cooperative agriculture extension services throughout the nation for the purpose of sharing useful and practical information with the American homemaker and farmer.
The Marshall County Cooperative Extension is part of the University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University off-campus information network, and through several successful programs, the service has “been a force for sustained, rational change that improves the quality of American life.”
One of the most popular programs offered by the Cooperative Extension Service is the 4-H Program which is the largest youth development organization reaching more than 7 million youth to engage in hands-on learning activities in the areas of science, healthy living and food security.
The 4-H Program started in 1909 when early county agents found that farmers were unreceptive to adopting new farming practices. The agents came up with an idea to let the children try the new practices on a small portion of the family’s farm. When the parents saw the successful results, they would often adopt the new practices.
“Our program in Marshall County reaches 1,500 youth throughout the county,” said Lena Mallory, Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development. “With afterschool programs and active clubs, 4-H has a strong presence in the county,” Mallory said.
Vickie Wynn,the Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences in Marshall County, said the Extension Agency has wide-reaching impact on residents.
“In addition to being advisor to 125 Extension Homemakers, I am responsible for the programming that addresses the needs of Marshall County citizens,” said Wynn. “Other programs we are involved with are Plate it Up!--Kentucky Proud which promotes locally grown foods with information to assist with recipes and preparation of these foods. Managing in Tough Times is another program that focuses on families’ needs for a spending plan and making resources go further,” she said.
ऀAs an FCS agent, Wynn also serves on the Marshall County Arts Commission advisory board, as well as a co-chair of the Children’s Art Center building committee. This partnership allows her to share Extension resources with the community in meeting needs of families that relate to such things as after-school programming and enrichment activities such as summer camps. The Extension office also partners with the Chamber of Commerce and Marshall County Tourism to promote local events and activities.
When asked how the Cooperative Extension Services have changed over the years, Wynn said “Program needs for families have been relatively consistent over time. I would say what has changed the most is the way that we deliver program materials. Although face-to-face meetings and programs are our primary means of getting the information to the people, social media and electronic delivery methods are very important to connect resources to families who have limited time to attend in person.”
For the past 100 years, the Cooperative Extension Service has been instrumental in building communities through education and outreach. In today’s world, change happens quickly and the Cooperative Extension Service is still the place where people can go to embrace those changes. For more information on local services contact the Marshall County Cooperative Extension Office at (270) 527-3285.