N.C. Cooperative Extension celebrates 100th birthday

Friends and employees of North Carolina Cooperative Extension came to Raleigh May 19-20 to celebrate Extension’s centennial with a barbecue dinner, legislative advocacy and the signing of a proclamation declaring May 20 as N.C. Cooperative Extension Day.

More than 1,000 people were on hand Monday evening at the N.C. State Fairgrounds Expo Center for dinner and a program celebrating Extension’s past, present and future. This month marks 100 years since the signing of the Smith-Lever Act that created Extension programs across the country. Across the country, and in Washington, D.C., Extension is marking its 100th birthday.

On Tuesday, Extension employees and supporters visited elected representatives in the General Assembly to share information about how Extension is moving the state forward. Afterward, Extension leaders joined Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, a 4-H alumna, in honoring Cooperative Extension’s 100 years of service.

Monday night’s program opened with a rousing “Happy birthday, Cooperative Extension,” from Dr. Joe Zublena, director of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service at N.C. State University. Welcoming remarks also came from Dean William Randle, School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and Dean Rich Linton, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, NC State University.

Randle, who has worked at seven land-grant universities, said “There is no better Cooperative Extension program in the country than here in North Carolina.” Linton described a partnership program between N.C. Cooperative Extension and his college to support rural students who want to study agriculture at NC State.

three men together
Chet Black, center, is named a Legend of Extension. With Fletcher Barber, left, and Joe Zublena.

As a celebration of “the past,” 11 individuals were recognized as the first Legend of Extension awardees. The award recognizes individuals who laid the foundation for the organization that Cooperative Extension is today. Only three of the honorees are still living – two were present and family members received the awards for two other honorees.

In celebration of the present, videos showed testimonials from clients whose lives were changed by Cooperative Extension. They included a young man started a vermicomposting business, after participating in a sustainable agriculture and entrepreneurship program; a prawn farmer who got help with marketing from Extension; the owner of Miss Jenny’s Pickles who participated in a food entrepreneurship program; and members of a Raleigh church who improve their health through Extension’s Faithful Families Eating Smart and Moving More program.

Looking to the future, Zublena described the visioning and strategic planning process that the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service has gone through this year. A new plan for Extension will be announced in coming months.

“Our people and the relationships they cultivate are the heart of Extension, and we know can depend on them to carry us into another century of success and service,” Zublena told the crowd.

“I am Extension, and you are Extension,” said Dr. Fletcher Barber, director of The Cooperative Extension Program at N.C. A&T, in concluding the night. “We move forward together. Your success stories will fuel Cooperative Extension.”

-N. Hampton

View centennial video message from Extension and college leaders:

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