All universities engage in research and teaching, but the nation’s more than 100 land grand universities and colleges have a unique third mission: Extension.
“Simply put, extension means reaching out,” said Lee Anderson, county Extension agent-interim staff chair. “Along with teaching and research, land-grant institutions extend their resources, solving public needs with college or university resources through non-formal, non-credit programs.”
In Arkansas, these programs are accessible through offices in all 75 counties and many extension resources can be found online at www.uaex.edu.
“Congress created the extension system a century ago to address exclusively rural, agricultural issues,” Anderson said. “At that time, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas, and 30 percent of the workforce was engaged in farming.”
Extension work in rural America helped make possible the American agricultural revolution, which dramatically increased farm productivity:
• In 1945, it took up to 14 labor-hours to produce 100 bushels of corn on 2 acres of land.
• By 1987, it took just under three labor-hours to produce that same 100 bushels of corn on just over 1 acre.
• In 2002, that same 100 bushels of corn were produced on less than 1 acre.
That increase in productivity has allowed fewer farmers to produce more food.
Fewer than 2 percent of Americans farm for a living today, and only 17 percent of Americans now live in rural areas. Yet, the extension service still plays an important role in American life — rural, urban and suburban.
“With its unprecedented reach — with an office in or near most of the nation’s approximately 3,000 counties — extension agents help farmers grow crops, homeowners plan and maintain their homes, and children learn skills to become tomorrow’s leaders, “Anderson said.
The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.