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NDSU Extension Service: 100 years of extending knowledge, changing lives

Published May 05, 2014

The NDSU Extension Service is celebrating a major milestone this year: 100 years of extending knowledge and changing lives.

May 8, 2014, is the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Smith-Lever Act. The act created the Cooperative Extension System, a state-by-state network of educators to deliver information from land-grant universities such as NDSU to the people of the states. NDSU Extension has agents who serve all 53 North Dakota counties, as well as the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

Extension began with the goal of extending practical knowledge about agriculture, home economics and rural energy to the people. Although methods have changed, Extension still uses the latest research-based information to help people improve their lives, livelihoods and communities.

NDSU Extension focuses its efforts in four primary areas: agriculture and natural resources, community vitality, family and consumer sciences, and 4-H youth development.

Agriculture and Natural Resources

The agriculture and natural resources program helps producers stay on the cutting edge of crop production through technology, such as in-field sensing to determine when and where to apply fertilizer, and new methods for water management, such as tile drainage. Farmers report that after taking Extension specialists’ advice to install tile drainage, they are able to plant on land that they couldn’t use for decades.

Other ag and natural resource efforts include a livestock water quality study in the Oil Patch; consumer outreach such as BBQ Boot Camp, which teaches how to grill a great steak and where the meat comes from; the Master and Junior Master Gardener programs; and assistance to help livestock producers expand their operations.

David Herzig turned to NDSU Extension when he wanted to add a cattle feeding component to his mixed-grain and cow-calf operation northwest of Burlington.

“We did ultimately expand our backgrounding operation, which has proven to be an integral part of my belief in multiple areas of diversification of the operation,” he says.

Community Vitality

The community vitality program is making a difference through initiatives such as Rural Leadership North Dakota. It’s a leadership development program in which participants learn by developing projects that improve their organization, community or region. For example, Watford City gained a playground, New England has a new swimming pool and a dairy near Mandan is giving visitors a chance to learn about agriculture.

“I feel the program brought out a new level of confidence in me that will push me to be a positive voice for North Dakota agriculture and the issues that are important to my industry and my state,” says 2011-13 rural leadership program participant Stacy Artz, a grain farm owner from Antler.

The community vitality program also provides small-business and manufacturing development assistance. Through Horizons, 44 rural communities confronted tough issues, including poverty, vandalism, and lack of access to food and local health-care services.

Family and Consumer Sciences

Family and consumer sciences provides adults and youth with information on eating healthfully, being physically active, preventing diseases such as macular degeneration and diabetes, and how to manage money and reach their financial goals. The Gearing Up for Kindergarten program helps improve 4-year-olds’ school readiness and increase parents’ involvement in their children’s educational development.

Other programs address credit card or identity theft, and estate and succession planning; help low-income families eat nutritious meals and stretch their food dollars; and show middle school youth the consequences of risky behaviors such as drinking and driving.

4-H Youth Development

4-H is the largest and only research-based youth organization in North Dakota. Nearly 5,400 youth were 4-H members in 2013. More than 25,000 youth participated in Extension youth development activities through one-time programs, in-school or after-school programs, and camps.

4-H provides youth with opportunities to make friends, have fun and develop lifelong skills in areas such as working with livestock, crop production, clothing and textiles, health, aerospace science, computers, geospatial technology, forestry, child development, leadership, communication, robotics, outdoor skills, wind energy and small engines.

“My years in 4-H taught me how to problem solve, but also to seek advice from others so I can make an informed decision,” says Jim Peterson, Starion Financial market president in Dunseith, Rolla and Bottineau.

Shooting sports is one of the Extension’s fastest growing youth programs.

“Shooting sports has helped me to learn how to focus under stressful situations, which is a skill that I can use in other areas of life,” says Mason Hanson, a shooting sports participant from Webster.

Extension Education

These are just some of the examples of what Extension offers. In 2013, Extension faculty and staff provided 951,677 fact-to-face or other direct contacts with North Dakotans.

“2014 will be a great year for the NDSU Extension Service as we remember our history, conduct educational events and plan future programs to serve North Dakotans,” Extension Director Chis Boerboom says.

The centennial will be celebrated on the NDSU campus at 1:30 p.m. May 8 in Century Theater with Steve Stark presenting an illustrated look at the historic timeline of Extension and the land-grant university.


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