Extension Service to celebrate their centennial soon

Published 12:07 pm Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Pearl River County office of the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Poplarville provides education and technical assistance to the public thanks to the 1914 Smith-Leaver Act.

May 8 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Leaver Act, which allowed MSU to establish the extension service and provide education to counties across the state.

The Pearl River County office will be celebrating the extension service’s centennial with an open house on May 8 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., said MSU Extension Service County Agent Eddie Smith.

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Smith said the Pearl River County office focuses on providing education to the community on family and consumer science, 4-H, community resource development and agriculture and natural resources.

“We’re glad we made it 100 years and we look forward to serving citizens of Pearl River County for another 100 years,” Smith said.

In 1862, the Federal Morrill Act established land-grant universities, one of which was Mississippi State University. In 1888, the Mississippi legislature established the first experiment station located in Starkville. In 1900, the legislature established the experiment station at McNeill.

The 1914 Smith-Leaver Act was designed to create a three-way partnership between local, state and federal governments to create extension service offices, said Mississippi State University Director of Extension Services Dr. Gary Jackson.

Jackson said before 1914, the university and experiment stations were conducting researching and gathering information, but the only people receiving that information were Mississippi State University students.

“We had the universities and experiment stations but not a dissemination piece to take research and teach it off campus,” Jackson said.

Through the creation of extension service offices, adult education programs could be conducted at the county offices and information gathered through the Mississippi State University was being shared with the public through publications and classes.

While there has been a shift in the community since 1914, the extension service is still important.

“We still serve the ag industry because it is the number one industry in our country and in Mississippi, but the things we do at the county level are more basic,” Jackson said.

County extension service offices conduct programs on soil testing, master gardening, health education, nutrition and even government office certifications.

Jackson said the extension service conducts certification courses for many government positions, such as county tax assessors and city clerks. He said they also host the staff development training for county supervisors.

Another important aspect of the local extension service office is the 4-H program.

Jackson said about 15-20 percent of Mississippi’s youth is being reached through the 4-H program.

“Other states envy our percentage of enrollment,” Jackson said.

He said county extension service offices run Mississippi’s 4-H programs.

The thing Jackson is most proud of is that despite other state and federal agencies closing or restructuring due to the economy, the extension service has operated in the same capacity for the last 100 years.

“We’re right there where we were 100 years ago,” Jackson said.

There are currently 81 county extension offices and four regional centers in the state along with the main extension service headquarters on Mississippi State University’s campus, Jackson said.