Then & Now
When North Carolina Cooperative Extension got its start a century ago, the goal was simple, but ambitious: to extend the knowledge of our nation’s universities to the people so that they might lead better lives. And that goal remains the focus of our efforts today.
But as the needs of those people have shifted, so have Extension’s programs. An example: In the early part of the 20th century, farmers needed help with highly eroded, worn-out soils, and Extension responded. Today, amid concerns about improving the quality of life-sustaining waters in ponds, lakes, rivers and streams, we help individuals and communities find ways to curb runoff from farms and from towns and cities.
As we address each high-priority issue, we strive for a holistic approach: one that involves the many audiences who have a stake in that issue. These people include farmers, agribusiness professionals, consumers, gardeners, community leaders, school teachers and students, 4-H’ers and whole families. In other words, people of all ages, in communities from the mountains to the coast.
While our programs and audiences are varied and have varied over time, one thing hasn’t: Our commitment to providing practical, trustworthy education that helps people, businesses and communities solve problems, develop skills and build a better future.
We take a brief look in our Then & Now posts at some of the ways we have, and are, making a life-changing impact for North Carolinians.
Extension started its work in selected communities to help farmers, children and rural families adopt better better ways of raising crops and safely preserving food for the home. Today, we work in every N.C. county, delivering education that changes lives.
Extension’s food safety and preservation programs have roots in early efforts to help girls earn additional farm income and have a safe, nutritious and adequate supply of food at home. Since then, they’ve proven invaluable in helping the state’s people through depressions, recessions and wartime and to launch food-based businesses.
Cooperative Extension got its start through two youth organizations, with the idea that parents might adopt skills they learned from their children. 4-H is today’s Cooperative Extension youth program, but even 4-H looks different than it did 50 years ago. While some 4-H’ers still exhibit livestock, others participate in STEM programs.
From helping consumers understand what they can do at home to conserve energy, to educating a range of ages about energy and alternative fuel sources, Extension’s work in this area continues to enrich the lives of North Carolina citizens.