Cooperative Extension Service

Without going into great detail, back in the mid-1800s, the U.S. Congress set up a system of "Land Grant" colleges and universities throughout the nation. Today, every state has at least one such institution of higher learning that includes some type of college of agriculture and natural resources.

The actual structure varies considerably from campus to campus but each one has a department which was originally called the Cooperative Extension Service. The name now varies from state to state but the system was set up to communicate i.e. "extend",  the research based knowledge from the land grant institution out to the local citizens of the state. Originally, this was intended to aid primarily farmers and their families through educational activities  in agriculture, horticulture, home economics and 4-H youth programs. Today, their audience has expanded to serve urban and suburban citizens.

Every county in the United States either has its own Extension office or is included in a multi-county arrangement with an office nearby. Depending on the local situation, the office may have professional "agents" or educators in a wide range of disciplines from many areas of agriculture, horticulture, natural resources, home economics, 4-H and others.

Since this is a gardening website, be aware that your Extension office may offer some or all of the following services:

1. Soil Tests - The Extension office will either test your soil itself or, more likely, send your sample to the land grant university for analysis.

2. Problem Diagnostics - In some cases, there will be local personnel available to look at plant or insect samples for diagnosis. In others, they may send the sample to the land grant university for analysis. Either way, they should be able to provide current recommendations for control.

3. On-Site Visits - Although it is less and less likely in the age of budget cuts, some offices may have personnel who may actually visit your site to help you deal with landscape disease or insect problems.

4. Educational Programs - Live classes, on-line programs and other types of presentations are a mainstay of many Extension offices. Generally, these programs are aimed at extending the research and knowledge base of the land grant university out to the gardening public.

5. Publications - Paper and electronic publications on a huge range of horticultural and gardening topics are available through the Extension office or their website.

6. Master Gardener - Many local county Extension offices offer this wonderful program. Generally, it consists of a large series of classes and the opportunity to give back by volunteering in the local community.

To contact your local Extension office, look under County Government in the telephone book (at least as long as they still have them) or, Click Here.

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