Thursday, May 08, 2014

Greene County Extension Celebrates 100 years

Contact: David Burton, civic communication specialist
County Program Director - Greene County
Tel: (417) 881-8909

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- It was on May 8th, 1914 when Congress established the Cooperative Extension Service with the Smith-Leever Act. The purpose of the act was to aid in diffusing useful and practical information on subjects relating to agriculture in universities across the nation including in Missouri.

The act also provided funding and structure for extension to continue and expand.

Today the MU Extension Program has university-based research and knowledge beyond the campus into all 114 Missouri counties.


Federal law established Extension in Missouri in 1862. In 1914, the Smith-Lever Act created the Extension service in its present form. Greene County saw its first Extension specialist in 1937.

Extension developed a formal county partnership in 1943 when the County Court formed the Greene County Agricultural Extension Association.

In 1961, the formal local funding of Extension was established by state law. In Greene County, a funding relationship existing with the county all the way back to 1943. At that time, Extension focused on livestock, soils and crops, home economics, nutrition and boys and girls clubs.

In Greene County, the county commission has provided funds since those early years. However, Greene County Extension also originally collected annual membership dues until a court ruled that was not permissible.


During the early years in Greene County, the Extension program was focused on agriculture programs, 4-H youth and Homemakers Clubs.

By the 1950s, the Greene County 4-H program had nearly 500 members countywide and even sponsored a countywide baseball program.

Homemakers Clubs were very active in promoting nutrition in the community with story displays and a group known as Dairy Maids who promoted milk at local businesses. At one point there were 33 Homemakers Clubs in the county and nearly 500 members who met monthly to learn about sewing, good hygiene and other things important to maintaining a good household.

Over the past 100 years, the program focus of Extension has changed to match the needs of the community. In Greene County, Master Gardeners has the largest membership now but 4-H remains active, even with the addition of some urban clubs. Nutrition education has taken on a larger community role along with all types of agriculture programs.

“I am a believer in Extension education because I think hands-on; face-to-face programs are still the best way for most of us to learn,” said Burton. “The payback to each county for a small investment in Extension is high when you consider over 30,000 county residents are reached each year in a personal way. That is why I believe MU Extension’s best days are yet to come.”

The Greene County Extension Council has set some goals for the next 100 years of Extension. Council members are working to establish an endowment to fund 4-H, using new educational partnerships that generate revenue and working to form an Extension District in Greene County.


There is more Greene County Extension history to uncover. The local council is looking for volunteers that have an interest in going through council minutes from 1967 to 2007 looking for historically significant decisions and events. Some retired Extension employees also need to be interviewed to help create a program history.

Persons interested in volunteering on this history project can contact the Greene County Extension office at (417) 881-8909 or send an email to

Additional information about the 100th Anniversary of Extension at a statewide level can be found online at Details specific to Greene County Extension can also be found online at


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