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
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
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,