South Dakota State University. Cooperative Extension Service

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South Dakota State University. Cooperative Extension Service

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In 1914, the United States Congress passed the Smith-Lever Act. This act proposed to set up a system of general demonstrations throughout the country, and the agent in the field of the department and the college provided agricultural information to the rural population.

The basic elements of extension had their inception during the late 1880's when farmers in the area began calling on agricultural experts at the college to talk to them and show them the best methods for raising crops. Farmers' Institutes, the first regular meetings that were held in 1888, were the medium through which such information was communicated. These institutes had grown out of local farmers' organizational gatherings in the Territory since about 1880. The institutes were held both at the college and throughout the state, the attendance of South Dakota Agricultural College [SDAC] faculty members at these assemblages being authorized by the Regents and Trustees.

In 1889 and in 1891 the Legislature enacted laws providing for state assistance to Farmers' Institutes. The Board of Trustees for the Agricultural College was authorized to conduct the institutes at different places in the state. In 1894, the state government began making appropriations for these meetings although the money available was too small to have much effect. Many local communities decided to take over this financial responsibility. After the Smith-Lever Act was enacted, the Farmers' Institutes were discontinued.

In 1912, a county agent was appointed to serve Brown County. The agent was named under a cooperative agreement among the Better Farming Association, the United States Department of Agriculture, and South Dakota State College. In 1913, additional counties took up county agent work and in 1914, Dean G. L. Brown signed, on behalf of the college, a memorandum of agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture [USDA]. Through the Smith-Lever Act, this provided for contributions to extension funds by the federal government, the state of South Dakota, and local communities. State College contracted to maintain a Division of Extension, and the USDA agreed to provide a States' Relation Service to administer the funds and cooperate with extension work. Either the college or the Department of Agriculture could nullify this arrangement.

At first, considerable personal service was given farmers and homemakers. Later the trend was toward working with organizational groups. There was once a close tie between Extension and the Farm Bureau Federation. The Farm Bureau had been started with the specific purpose of cooperating with extension work. The state College Extension Service took an active role in organizing Farm Bureaus in the state. During the 1920's, other agricultural organizations began to challenge this intimate relationship. Their argument was that the county agent was a public servant and that it should not be part of his job to promote organizations, which frequently espoused public policies of a controversial character. However, it was not until 1935 that the Farm Bureau ceased to be the official cooperating organization with extension.

Club and home demonstration work have been two major areas of the Extension Service. Boys' and girls' club work began in 1913 and was subsequently assisted by Smith-Lever funds. This legislation further provided for home demonstration work. Before that time, homemakers' clubs had been held in connection with Farmers' Institutes. Several women had been employed in the Extension Service as demonstrators prior to the appointment of the first regular home demonstration agent. Among the early topics at home demonstration meetings were poultry raising, use of the fireless cooker, clothing, and food values. Changing technology and economic conditions have caused subjects to vary.

ontributions of specialists have supplemented those of county agents. From the first, the college undertook to supply specialized as well as general agricultural information to those writing for it, but farmers felt the need for personal interviews and demonstration in highly technical problems as well as the more generalized subjects that were the province of county agents. Shortly after the Smith-Lever Act went into effect, a dairy specialist became the extension department's first specialist. Extension has had specialists in wide areas, including breeding, farm records, and farm building construction. / The overall mission of the Cooperative Extension Service is to disseminate and encourage the application of research-generated knowledge and leadership techniques to individuals, families and communities in order to improve agriculture and strengthen the South Dakota family and community. The Cooperative Extension Service is the off-campus informal educational function of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences and the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

The service extends the South Dakota State University campus to every community and the advantages of higher education to all people. The extension staff is dedicated to the task of assisting individuals and groups to meet the challenges of change in farming, ranching, marketing, the home, state and nation. They use the press, radio, television, satellite, interactive audio-visual, educational publications, group methods, and individual contacts to inform and teach. Through its extension agents and specialists, the Cooperative Extension Service disseminates the findings of research and encourages the application of knowledge to solution of problems encountered in everyday living across the entire state.


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