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ByMary Hightower For County Lines

the government.” Tat initiative is known today as the Cooperative Extension Service.


What is the Extension Service? Simply put, “extension” means “reaching out.” Along with teaching

and research, land-grant universities extend their resources, solving public needs through non-formal, non-credit programs. “Cooperative” stems from a partnership between federal, state and county governments. “Our partnerships with the counties — at all levels — is absolutely essential to our mission,” said Tony Windham, director of the Coopera- tive Extension Service in Arkansas. “Tat’s why we have offices in all 75 coun- ties — to be of service and to be an integral part of the local communities.” “We want to encourage our county officials to speak with the local extension agents to explore how we can better support them in meeting their local needs,” he said. Its singular mission was to bring the most modern agriculture research to farmers to improve their yields and earnings, and increase the avail- ability of food and the standard of living for all. In Arkansas, the extension service is half of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agricul- ture. Te other half is the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, which conducts research presented to end users by extension educators. Today, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service

extension agents to explore how we can better support them in meeting their local needs.


works in four main areas: agriculture and natural resources; 4-H youth development; family and consumer science; and community and economic development. Beyond the historic partnership that evolved from the Smith-Lever

Act, the Cooperative Extension Service works closely with counties at many levels.

County leadership Te Cooperative Extension Service has offices in each county, and each office has an advisory board called the County Extension Coun- cil. Every county judge has a seat on this council, which is critical to guide local extension work. “Te effectiveness of a county’s Extension program depends on involvement of local citizens in program development,” said Martha Sar-


ne-hundred years ago, President Wilson’s signing of the Smith-Lever Act created a national initiative that he called “one of the most significant and far-reaching measures for the education of adults ever adopted by

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Extension, counties mark a century of cooperation

tor, director of county operations for the Cooperative Extension Service. “Te County Extension Council System is designed to provide local stakeholder support for county Extension agents to plan, implement, evaluate, market, and support the local educational program.” On another level, the list of alumni from Extension’s LeadAR leader-

ship development program boasts of members elected to quorum courts in Arkansas, Bradley, Columbia, Cross, Faulkner and Union counties, not to mention a county judge, a county assessor and a coroner.

Learning to vote In July, Boone County youth ages 8-18 took part in 4-H Splash, a

e want to encourage our county officials to speak with the local

citizenship program. Youth toured the county courthouse, heard from the county judge, treasurer and circuit clerk, participated in a commu- nity service project, and a workshop on the types of governments, said Nita Cooper, Boone County Extension staff chair. Te lesson included a hands-on experience in the voting booth guided by Boone County Clerk Crystal Graddy. “We wanted our youth to not only understand the importance of voting, but also the importance of having someone be able to step into the roles of county clerk, or judge or quo- rum court member in the future,” Cooper said. “Te presentation by

Tony Windham ” Director of Cooperative Extension Service in Arkansas

Crystal Graddy was very useful. It helped us to see how technology has changed the voting process. It helped to prepare us for the future,”

said Brennan Boone, a Boone County 4-H Teen Leader. “We learned about the value of voting, and that voting is a right and a privilege. It helped to broaden our view of the role of government.”

“We Love VBC” Extension’s “Breakthrough Solutions” program, which helped

breathe new life into Harrison’s downtown, is taking its first steps in Van Buren County, said Mark Peterson, professor-economic and community development. Working with the county judge and others, “We Love VBC” came to life. Tis group is devoted to first revital- izing downtown Clinton, and helping bring a new energy to all of Van Buren County.

Te first actions will be to repaint and repair buildings in down-

town Clinton and create two murals designed by nationally recognized artists. And these steps are more than just cosmetic, Peterson said. “Tis changes the conversation in the community from a negative focus on all of the vacant buildings downtown to ‘have you seen what’s going on? So-and-so has moved a new business downtown’,” he said. “It’s about developing momentum.” Breakthrough Solutions is also at work in Montgomery, Scott and

Polk counties. 29

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