Last week we celebrated 4-H week in Ohio.
Many people are not aware that 4-H is part of Extension, which reminded me that Extension itself is a hard concept to describe, even though Extension has been an important education component for the rural community for over 100 years.
The purpose of Extension was to develop a system to transfer research information from public universities to the local community. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 provided the first federal funds to form a national Extension service, which then designed a cooperative funding structure among federal, state, and local governments.
This cooperative structure relied on a local county presence for university outreach programs, management by the state’s public land grant university, and partial financial support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
For example, Hancock County Extension office is the local outreach arm and Ohio State University manages it. County, state, and federal governments fund the program. All 50 states have an Extension service with a similar cooperative government structure.
Historically, Extension focused on agriculture since its original mission was to improve the living standards of rural America. Extension still serves agriculture, but its programming has evolved as the population has become more urban and less rural.
Extension assists in solving problems in the home, workplace, and community. Programming is focused on what local people say are the key issues for the economy; the environment; family, individual, and youth development; and leadership.
To address these issues, the Hancock County Extension office has educators for three major program areas: Agriculture and Natural Resources, Family and Consumer Sciences, and 4-H/Youth Development.
The Agriculture and Natural Resources educator is responsible for programs in commercial agriculture, horticulture, and forestry management; recreational and urban gardening; environmental resource management and protection; risk management and marketing; farm income enhancement; and guides the Master Gardener Volunteers.
The Family and Consumer Sciences educator is responsible for programs in family life, nutrition, home-based businesses, budgeting, health and wellness, and managing multiple roles. This educator also oversees the education component of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-Ed) via a grant at the county level.
The 4 H/Youth Development educator is responsible for 4-H youth programs in career exploration, leadership and self-esteem development, and youth at risk.
Today, Extension is still a cooperation among local, state and federal government. County commissioners provide local funding and help focus local programming. The state Legislature contributes funds for the state organization and programs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides federal funds for OSU Extension and specific education programs. Other agencies and private companies fund special Extension projects through grants and contracts.
Extension continues as the outreach arm of Ohio State University. The local Extension office works with community and local leaders to solve county problems and to improve the lives of all residents. Its success over the past 100 years has been based on one major premise: a local presence to transfer university information.
The Hancock County Extension office is that local presence and it is the local connection to Ohio State University and other land grant institutions. To find out more information about Extension, stop by the Hancock County office or go to the website, hancock.osu.edu.
Lentz is extension educator for agriculture and natural resources for the Ohio State University Extension Service in Hancock County. He can be reached at 419-422-3851 or via email at email@example.com.
Lentz can be heard with Vaun Wickerham on weekdays at 6:35 a.m. on WFIN, at 5:43 a.m. on WKXA-FM, and at 5:28 a.m. at 106.3 The Fox.
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