A Century of Outreach

UK's Agricultural Special came rumbling ‘round the bend in 1912, and more than 70,000 Kentuckians benefited from its arrival. The train, a “university on wheels,” made 108 stops and covered 2,453 miles, extending the college’s expertise out into the state. Six cars carried exhibits on all facets of agriculture, including fully equipped dairy and domestic science cars and various livestock. Thirty specialists lived and dined onboard. This was two years before the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 organized and partially funded the outreach activities of land-grant universities.

In Kentucky, we were well ahead of the game. Kentucky Cooperative Extension has been out in front ever since.

For a century, Kentuckians have improved their crop yields, their health, their know-how, and their businesses by relying on extension’s well-informed, research-backed outreach programs.

If we were to fill up every page of this magazine, there wouldn’t be enough space to list all of UK Cooperative Extension’s accomplishments.

But here’s a selection.

1914 - 1950s

Congress passed the Smith-Lever Act, establishing the Cooperative Extension Service.

UK hires first home demonstration agents, a precursor to today’s family and consumer sciences agents. Of the 17 agents hired, five are African-American.


World War I rages and Junior Agricultural Club Work expands. The 4-H forerunner’s popular slogan: “Food will win the war.”


The first four Farm Makers Clubs, involving African-American youth, begin.


Home demonstration clubs are established. By 1925, clubs in Kentucky total 377 with more than 4,000 members.


Kentucky sends its first four delegates to the second national 4-H club camp in Washington, D.C.

Junior Agricultural Club Work name is changed to Junior 4-H Club Work.


Not just for farm youth anymore. Town kids join 4-H for the first time.

Special efforts are made to involve more black youth. The first 4-H Rural Youth Conference is held at Kentucky State College; 60 youth attend.


Kentucky Homemaker’s Federation (forerunner of the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association) is founded.


With the Depression at its worst, Extension programming emphasizes diet and food production, preservation, and storage.


Extension work focuses on the Flood of 1937; home demonstration agents organize and direct the feeding of refugees, clothing distribution, and much more.


4-H clubs now in all 120 counties


To support the war effort, agricultural and home demonstration agents carry out the "live-at-home" campaign where families agree to produce 75 percent of their own food supply.


“We got the home (demonstration) agent, and then we got an assistant agent, and then we rolled up our sleeves and went to work. We worked as a team and we could serve more people…. We were helping people to help themselves.”

—Hugh Thomas Hurst
Pulaski County extension agent


The Corn Derby is created to demonstrate to farmers how good soil management, good stands, and the selection of better varieties can improve their yields.


With an increase in funds under the Bankhead-Flannagan Act, effort is taken to "equalize counties by providing a county agricultural agent, a county home demonstration agent, and sufficient clerical service."


“The coal business during (World War II) had been booming, but it was beginning to shut down a lot of small mines. We had a lot of people looking for some other source of income. One of the things we did was a big push that we put on for developing cash crops…. That was a time of rapidly growing agricultural enterprises.”

—James W. Kidwell
Whitley County ag. agent, 1947-1961


Creation of the Kentucky Development Committee, an interagency committee that included UK Cooperative Extension.

“Our main effort was to try to make local communities and small towns attractive as places to live and work, so we could attract industry into those communities…. Our efforts at inter-agency cooperation I think will pay off for some time in the future.”

—Charlie Dixon
Extension specialist in community
development, 1960s

1960s - 1980s

“We set up clinics all over the state, working with a particular family to help them improve their home, improve their farm life, and just an all around improvement for their family living. I think we were very successful in this project.”

—Gladys Lickert
UK extension specialist in home mgmt. and housing, 1955-1970.


Extension agronomist Shirley Phillips establishes UK as a leader in the no-till movement.
Today, approximately 90 million U.S. acres are in no-till production.


Civil Rights Act of 1964 passes, and Kentucky discontinues the practice of separate activities for black and white youth. Kentucky becomes the first state to send a black delegate to the National 4-H Congress.


Congress funds the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program to encourage sound nutritional practices among low-income families.

“EFNEP was originated to help low income families feed their families more adequately…. I’ve always felt that this was one of the best things we could do to help low-income people improve their state in life.”

—Isobel Crutchfield
Christian County home economics agent, 1959-1986


First "mobile classroom" is developed for EFNEP. It was equipped with a variety of teaching aids and facilities. Three units are built in different areas of Kentucky between 1971 and the early 1990s.


Friends of Kentucky 4-H, Inc. is created, primarily to increase private financial support to 4-H and involve community leaders.

“Volunteer leadership is the basis from which we can conduct extension programs.”

—John Conrad Feltner
Asst. extension director for 4-H, 1970-1978


The Secretary of Agriculture approves expanded bale marketing of burley tobacco after extensive research, development, and promotion by UK extension specialists. Producers, warehouses, and purchasers save millions of dollars of market preparation and handling cost over the years.


The Integrated Resource Management (IRM) concept is introduced into Kentucky. In early 1995, a University of Kentucky Beef IRM coordinating committee develops and implements a statewide Beef IRM extension program.

An economic crisis, especially impacting farmers, results in extension programs focused on stress management and family living.


Tobacco specialists in Montgomery County conduct the first tobacco transplant float bed trial, at a time when conventional transplant production is experiencing significant labor issues, weed control problems, and the gradual loss of a necessary soil fumigant. This initial work revolutionizes tobacco transplant production.

1990s - 2014

Schools are able to use the 4-H Workforce Preparation educational materials in classrooms, because it meets the criteria of the School-to-Work Act and Welfare to Work legislation.


UK home economics extension partners with 4-H to launch the Master Volunteer in Clothing Construction Program, designed to train volunteers to teach programs related to sewing.


Kentucky Extension adopts a new mission: to serve as a link between counties and Kentucky’s land-grant universities to help people improve their lives through education that focuses on their issues and needs.


4-H clubs are established at Ft. Knox and Ft. Campbell, part of a national effort to make 4-H available on U.S. Army bases around the world.


Home economics extension becomes family and consumer sciences extension.


Agents begin to facilitate county agricultural development councils that are invested in developing comprehensive plans to transition from a tobacco-based farm economy to a more diverse one.


Kentucky 4-H core curriculum is adopted.


The Horse Pasture Evaluation Program begins as part of the UK Equine Initiative. To date, the program has performed 125 evaluations representing more than 20,000 farm acres in 19 counties.


A Science, Engineering and Technology Initiative is implemented in Kentucky 4-H.


The Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky is established. CEDIK consolidates and strengthens extension’s former Community and Economic Development program, seeking to engage community members and incorporating the interests and cultures of communities in the development process.

Plate It Up Kentucky Proud is initiated. The project is designed to promote increased consumption of Kentucky fruits and vegetables.

Applied Master Grazer Program is introduced. Livestock producers get hands-on field experience in grazing concepts, practices, and techniques.

“I didn’t go to college; I basically got my college 'degree' through extension.”

—Todd Clark
Fayette County farmer and graduate of the Applied Master Grazer Program

Quotations: © University of Kentucky, all rights reserved. University of Kentucky Extension Service Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.