One hundred years ago the Cooperative Extension was started to help farmers, homemakers, and youth use the latest university research to improve their lives. Today, the Cooperative Extension continues to be a vital partner in the agriculture industry while providing education to youth and families.
In its first years, Cooperative Extension played a critical role on the home front during World War I, helping farmers to grow enough wheat and other crops to meet expanded war-time needs. Extension's value was quickly established as farmers came to rely on having an expert close at hand who was familiar with local conditions and crops. In addition to addressing the needs of farmers, Cooperative Extension soon expanded to provide educational opportunities for their families, including programs for rural women and activities for local youth. Nutrition, food preservation, and a variety of skills were taught by "home demonstration agents" working with rural women. Thousands of young people would learn about food production, cooking, science and more through participation in 4-H clubs.
Today, UC Cooperative Extension continues to serve communities throughout California as part of the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, with 200 locally based Cooperative Extension advisors, 130 campus-based Cooperative Extension specialists, 57 county offices throughout the state, and nine research and extension centers.
Here in Stanislaus County, where agriculture is the number one industry, UC Coop farm advisors help farmers develop more efficient growing methods, solve pest management problems and develop crops and irrigation methods that use less water. An example of this help is UC Coop Pomology Farm Advisor Roger Duncan's 11-year study on almond tree pruning.
"Back in the old days, farmers thought extensive pruning was good for the trees. But now with the research, Duncan is teaching that limited pruning is best," said Marie Harter of the Stanislaus County UC Coop Extension.
Today's farmers have to keep up with technological advances.
"It's all about education," said Harter. "Farming isn't what it used to be; it's so scientific now. Farmers now send their children off to college to get a degree and come back to help on the farm. We're an extension of UC Davis and provide resources for those farmers."
The Cooperative Extension here in Stanislaus County also offers resources for families and youth. The Nutrition, Family, and Consumer Science program helps people better manage their family and personal resources. The program provides consumers - especially the parents of young children - with information in food and nutrition, food safety, food preservation, and money management. Training and information is also provided to health and education professionals such as nurses, foster care parents, home health aides residential care operators, and teachers.
To celebrate its 100th anniversary, the University of California Cooperative Extension is asking all California residents to become scientists.
"UC Cooperative Extension is all about science and service," said Barbara Allen-Diaz, UC vice president for the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which administers Cooperative Extension in California. "To celebrate the anniversary of Cooperative Extension, we are asking Californians to help us collect scientific data so that all of us will better understand our natural, agricultural and urban communities."
Everyone in California is invited to take part. To participate, go to http://beascientist.ucanr.edu and record observations on three questions:
• How many pollinators do you see?
• How do you conserve water?
• Where is food grown in your community?
Locally, a centennial celebration of the University of California Cooperative Extension will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 10 at the Stanislaus County Agricultural Center, 3800 Cornucopia Way, Modesto.
The celebration will include live music, a car show, farmers market, arts and crafts vendors, petting zoo, kids' zone, professional chef demonstration featuring Michael Midgley from Food Network's "Cutthroat Kitchen," and more.
To learn more about the UC Cooperative Extension in Stanislaus County, visit cestanislaus.ucanr.edu