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Purdue extension finishes up 100 years of service
Indiana Correspondent

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — With the end of 2005, the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service completed its 100th year of assistance to rural Hoosiers.

According to Dr. Tom Jordan, assistant director of CES at Purdue University in West Lafayette, CES was formally established by an act of the Indiana General Assembly in the summer of 1905. The program, dubbed an “extension” of Purdue’s agriculture education was originally set up to be run through the agricultural experiment station at Purdue.

At that time, Purdue extension moved over to become a department under the Purdue College of Agriculture and remained that way for several years. By early 1906, the College of Agriculture was naming people to specific extension appointments within the University - called extension specialists, a term still used today.

“We were not the original extension program in the country, but we were one of the early ones developed,” said Jordan. He added that the nationwide CES program was not established until Congress enacted legislation to provide CES in each state through land grant universities in 1914.

The term cooperative stems from the establishment of the program under the USDA and implies the cooperative educational effort of USDA, state government and local county involvement.

The concept of extension outreach efforts has been in Indiana for many years.

“Purdue has been doing extension type work since 1892 when they came out with the farmer’s institutes,” Jordan said. “Under this precursor to extension we also had the boys and girls clubs. When the CES was established these clubs rolled under that program and became 4-H.”

Jordan said the Indiana CES encompasses four programs: Ag and Natural Resources, 4-H, Consumer and Family Sciences (formerly home economics), and Community Development (including rural development). In Indiana, every county has an extension office, which offers most of the four programs. There are about 350 county-based employees in Indiana and another 200 or so with extension appointments on Purdue’s campus.

Times have changed, but Jordan said Purdue extension strives to keep up.

“Obviously when CES started 85-90 percent of the population in Indiana lived in a rural area, now only around 40 percent of the state’s population lives in rural areas,” said Jordan. “Also, then there were several hundred thousand farmers, now there are around 58,000 farmers.”

The needs of the farm and rural sector have changed, but Jordan feels extension has remained viable due to its mission always staying intact.

“We have a different set of programs now, but research-based education has remained all along,” he said.

Published in the January 11, 2006 issue of Farm World.