The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service (UACES), an arm of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, offers non-traditional education, bringing university research to Arkansans to help improve their lives. The UACES disseminates information on agricultural production, protection of natural resources, family and consumer sciences, 4-H youth development, rural community development, and public issues education. With offices in every county, the UACES provides easy access to information that has practical and immediate application. The UACES state headquarters is in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on land that borders the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR).
Three federal legislative acts, passed during the mid- to late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, created the national Agricultural Extension Service (AES), and an expanding boll weevil infestation eventually brought the UACES to Arkansas. The first of three federal acts, the 1862 Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act, established the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and allowed states to sell excess federal land to fund a land-grant university in each state. Arkansas’s land-grant campus was established in Fayetteville (Washington County), eventually becoming the University of Arkansas (UA). The Hatch Act of 1887 appropriated federal funding for experiment stations, most associated with land-grant universities, to conduct agricultural research. The Smith-Lever Act, passed on May 8, 1914, created the AES nationwide.
The AES linked the USDA, land-grant universities, and the states’ rural citizens. The Smith-Lever Act also established the funding formula still used for extension work: federal funds supplemented by state and county funds. A second Morrill Act in 1890 mandated that universities receiving federal funds not engage in racial discrimination. That act led to the many improvements of what became the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) and to the Cooperative Extension Program, a partner of the UACES.
By 1903, the Mexican boll weevil had migrated far into Texas and had caught the attention of the USDA, which called upon Seaman Knapp, a former college professor and administrator in New York and at Iowa State University, to travel to Texas, where the boll weevil threatened cotton growers. Knapp introduced the concept of demonstrating scientific farming practices in the South, a model eventually funded through the Smith-Lever Act for national implementation. In addition, Knapp had traveled to the Far East, where he located rice that could be grown in Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas.
Knapp established a successful farming model and hired thirty-three special agents who were assigned to the USDA’s Bureau of Plant Industry to replicate his model and establish demonstrations along railroad lines and near business centers in Texas. Their success in Texas heightened the interest for using Knapp’s model in other Southern states. In 1905, J. A. Evans, one of the original special agents in Texas, was named state agent for Farm Demonstration Work in Arkansas and Louisiana. Evans later became director of the Southern Extension office and associate chief of Cooperative Extension Work in the USDA.
By 1908, Arkansas had seven district agents and nineteen county agents assigned to it. The Smith-Lever Act authored by Knapp was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, making Knapp “The Father of Extension.”
By 1912, and even before the Smith-Lever Act, Arkansas had thirty-six county agents who demonstrated scientific farming practices to Arkansas farmers, and the first corn club, the forerunner of 4-H in Arkansas, had been established in Searcy County as a means for introducing better farming practices to farmers through their children. Most women living in rural Arkansas in the early 1900s preserved food by brining, drying, and using large amounts of sugar, a time-consuming process. By 1912, canning agents, hired part time, began demonstrating new time-saving and safe canning practices. By 1914, federal and county funding supported more canning clubs, and in February 1914, Emma Archer was named the state agent in charge of women’s and girls’ work. Archer established the first canning club in Arkansas. Out of the canning club grew the Home Demonstration Clubs, which numbered 159 in Arkansas by 1917. By the Great Depression, the Home Demonstration Clubs’ volunteers were playing a major role in improving the quality of life for rural Arkansans statewide.
The UACES has used Knapp’s model for almost 100 years. For example, the UACES has continued to work with farmers in controlling the boll weevil and more recently partnered with farmers and agricultural organizations in supporting a comprehensive and coordinated boll weevil eradication program, which has had a major impact in Arkansas.
Arkansas’s Rice Research and Verification Program (RRVP) is a key demonstration program of the UACES, established in 1983. As a result of the RRVP, the number of acres harvested, as well as the yield per acre, has steadily increased. In 1984, 1.15 million acres of rice harvested yielded 102.2 bushels per acre. By 2004, the number of acres of rice harvested had increased to 1.55 million at 153.6 bushels per acre. Arkansas is the number-one rice producer in the nation. The verification program proved so successful in rice that the concept has been adapted to other row crops as well as beef production in Arkansas.
The UACES receives federal, state, and county funding, as well as funding through federal, state, local, and private grants and gifts. The UACES offers programming with input from local County Extension Councils and through partnerships with counties, community colleges, universities, public schools, and municipalities. UACES county programming is adjusted annually to meet specific community and individual needs in addition to broader state or national needs driven by overarching issues such as water and soil conservation.
Through verification programs, the UACES has used demonstration plots, workshops, field days, and the Internet to transfer from the university to the agricultural producer the knowledge and use of emerging and newly developed technologies, such as Global Positioning Systems, transgenic seeds, improved irrigation practices, and no-till production. These programs have improved productivity and efficiencies in agriculture, resulting in increased productivity; reduced inputs; and water, fuel, and soil conservation. Volunteers enhance the extension’s educational outreach through organizations such as Extension Homemakers Clubs, 4-H Clubs, and Master Gardener Clubs in Arkansas suburbs, urban centers, and rural communities.
For additional information:
Evans, J. A. “Recollections of Extension History.” Agricultural Extension Service Circular No. 224. Raleigh: North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering of the University of North Carolina and U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperating, 1938.
Hogan, Mena. “A History of the Agricultural Extension Service in Arkansas.” MS thesis, University of Arkansas, 1940.
Popp, Jennie, Nathan Kemper, and Wayne Miller. “Impact of the Agricultural Sector on the Arkansas Economy in 2003.” Research Report 981. Fayetteville: Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, 2006.
Rasmussen, Wayne D. Taking the University to the People: Seventy-Five Years of Cooperative Extension Service. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1989.
University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. http://www.uaex.edu (accessed February 21, 2007).
University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service