Today is the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act, the federal legislation that created extension services at the land-grant universities throughout the United States. Its purpose was to provide agricultural information in order to improve the lives and conditions of farm families and boost the agricultural sector of the economy. The North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service was created later in 1914. In 1991 it changed its name to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. For the last 100 years it has disseminated scientific information through a variety of resources that include periodicals, pamphlets, photographs, films, audio recordings, and video. NC State’s University Archives has been acquiring historical examples of these, some of which are accessible online. Numerous examples are shown below.
The Extension Service has encouraged production of a number of crops during the last 100 years. North Carolina is the leading producer of sweet potatoes and a major producer of peanuts. Other important food commodities include apples, blueberries, corn, peaches, and strawberries. Tobacco was already a major commodity in North Carolina in 1914, but throughout the twentieth century Cooperative Extension fostered growth of this crop. Historically, North Carolina has been a leader in flue-cured tobacco production.
Poultry production became an important part of North Carolina’s agricultural economy during the twentieth century, in no small part through promotion by the Cooperative Extension Service. The state has been one of the leading producers of turkeys and broiler chickens. Eggs have been another area that saw growth. 4-H participation in the Sears Poultry program just after World War II was important in the industry’s development. The North Carolina Layer Performance and Management Test has been gauging production since 1958.
Through such services at the Plant Disease Clinic (later called the Plant Disease and Insect Clinic) and the Dial-a-Weed program, farmers, gardeners, and homeowners have been able to tap into expert advice on a wide range of plant issues.
Digitized images, documents, videos, and other resources on the history of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service are available at the NCSU Libraries Rare and Unique Digital Collections site. Descriptive guides to archival collections that have not yet been digitized are also available online.