N.C. Cooperative Extension celebrates its centennial 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, the 19th, at the N.C. State Fairgrounds Expo Center for dinner and a program celebrating Extension’s past, present and future. May marked 100 years since the signing of the Smith-Lever Act that created Extension programs nationally. Across the country, and in Washington, D.C., Extension has been 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. Remarks also came from Dean William Randle, School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, N.C. A&T State University; Dean Rich Linton, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, N.C. State University; and Dr. Fletcher Barber Jr., N.C. A&T Extension associate administrator.
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 the College to support rural students who want to study agriculture at N.C. State.
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.
The inaugural Legend honorees were Chet Black, former director of N.C. Cooperative Extension Service and former state 4-H leader, N.C. State; Carlton Blalock, retired director, N.C. Cooperative Extension Service; the late William Cooper, state 4-H specialist, N.C. A&T; the late Ada Dalla Pozza, faculty member in family and consumer sciences, N.C. State; Daniel Godfrey, former Extension administrator, N.C. A&T; the late L.R. Harrill, former state 4-H leader; the late Robert Earl Jones, 4-H and black farm agent leader, N.C. A&T; the late Dazelle Foster Lowe, home demonstration agent, N.C. A&T; the late Jane S. McKimmon, home demonstration agent, N.C. State; the late John Mitchell, 4-H leader, N.C. A&T; the late I.O. Schaub, corn club agent, N.C. State.
Black and Godfrey were on hand to receive their awards. Blalock’s wife, Cornelia Blalock accepted his award; and Charles Winston, grandson of Jane McKimmon, accepted on her behalf.
In celebration of the present, videos showed testimonials from clients whose lives were changed by Cooperative Extension. They included a young man who 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 improved 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 (see sidebar). 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 we 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,” Barber said, concluding the night. “We move forward together. Your success stories will fuel Cooperative Extension.”
Tuesday’s centennial events moved downtown to the General Assembly building, where Extension supporters met with their elected representatives. Participants scheduled meetings with their representatives and reported successful encounters to share Cooperative Extension’s story.
Tuesday afternoon, Extension and College leaders met across Jones Street at the N.C. Museum of History, where N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall read Gov. Pat McCrory’s proclamation declaring May 20 “North Carolina Cooperative Extension Day 2014.”
Marshall, who grew up as a 4-H’er on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, credits 4-H and Cooperative Extension with helping her become who she is today. “My task today is to talk about what Extension has meant to me and to my family. It is quite simple: I would probably not have gone to college. I certainly would not have had the chance to widen my perceptions living in Brazil as as an exchange agriculture student under the program known as IFYE.
“I would not be in North Carolina except for 4-H – I followed somebody I thought I was very interested in because we met at the National 4-H Center. That’s another long story.”
Marshall said that 4-H gave her a set of skills that have served her for life – planning, establishing priorities, public speaking and record keeping.
Marshall’s mother was an Extension Homemaker who learned about nutrition, household skills, family dynamics and crafts. Her mother even had the opportunity to visit the United Nations as an Extension Homemaker.
“As my mother grew older and was not able to drive herself to homemaker meetings, I saw the impact of less socialization on her life. Living in a rural area where you don’t have neighbors handy, not being able to do homemakers really narrowed her social life,” Marshall said.
Her father “absorbed every piece of literature that came from the Extension Service,” she said, adding that he groused about homemaker recipes that her mother tried on the family, especially those that included cabbage and tomatoes, which he didn’t enjoy.
“Extension is a safety net for life,” she said. As a student at the University of Maryland, Marshall could have gotten lost, coming from a small rural school. “But I found I had a family in that large array of people, and it was the collegiate 4-H club, with folks who had life experiences about like mine.”
Even today, Marshall says, “4-H comes up so much in my public and private life. If I think about it, 4-H actually prepared me for politics. My first elected office outside my little school was as Maryland state 4-H president.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today were it not for 4-H. I consider that a debt I need to continue to repay.
“My life is good because of 4-H,” she said, her voice trembling with emotion. “Thank you.”
— Natalie Hampton
A VISION FOR THE FUTURE
The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service is in the final stages of its Strategic Vision and Planning Initiative, which aims to position Extension for another century of success and service.
The Extension Service points to several transformative themes that have emerged during the planning process as indicators of the future. Once the strategic plan is wrapped up and implemented, Extension’s core program areas will be Agriculture, Food and 4-H Youth Development.
The core areas and final plan will stem from extensive discussions and feedback involving Extension employees and key stakeholders, which is helping to define where Extension is most needed and best equipped to provide expertise.
In addition to a re-focused core, Extension leadership has shared five key themes:
• We plan to bolster employee satisfaction and create more professional growth opportunities through a variety of initiatives, such as an enhanced career ladder for agents;
• We’ll develop commodity- and issue-based teams within our core program areas to improve resources, increase interdisciplinary collaboration and strengthen county-campus relationships;
• We’ll optimize our use of technology while remaining committed to hands-on, experiential education and personal service (creating a “high tech and high touch” Extension);
• We’ll support the College’s and university’s strategic plans through our programs and services, which create wealth, provide practical solutions and exemplify a “think and do” spirit; and
• We’ll work hand-in-hand with county and tribal government partners to explore and recommend staffing structures for each of our 101 local offices.
“We’re ensuring that Extension will continue to be the leading source of research-based knowledge and solutions for another 100 years; this is our enduring promise to the people of North Carolina,” said Dr. Joe Zublena, director of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service. “Positive transformation is on the horizon, and Extension’s future is bright.”
Administration anticipates finalizing and sharing the strategic plan in August.
Learn more about the Extension Service’s Vision Initiative at www.ces.ncsu.edu/vision.
– Justin Moore