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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


A Brief History of Extension

The Cooperative Extension Service system got its start in 1862 when Congress passed the Morrill Act, which provided for a university in each state to provide education to citizens in the agricultural and mechanical fields. These colleges are known as "land-grant universities." The Ohio State University is Ohio's 1862 land-grant university.

Congress soon realized that to be effective, the educational function of land-grant universities needs to be supplemented with research capabilities. The Hatch Act was passed in 1887 to establish research farms where universities could conduct research into agricultural, mechanical and related problems faced by rural citizens.

In 1890, a number of "Historically Black Colleges and Universities" were added as land-grant universities. Central State University is Ohio's 1890 land-grant university, as of a U.S. Congressional designation passed in 2014.

Congress passed the Smith-Lever Act in 1914 to establish the Cooperative Extension Service, which is a state-by-state network of educators who "extend" university knowledge to people throughout the country. Cooperative Extension is an educational partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the nation's land-grant universities.

Smith-Lever Act (May 8, 1914)
An act signed ... "to aid in diffusing among the people of the United States useful and practical information on subjects relating to agriculture, uses of solar energy with respect to agriculture, home economics, and rural energy, and to encourage the application of the same..."

-Rep. Asbury F. Lever, South Carolina
-Sen. Michael Hoke Smith, Georgia

The appropriation for Cooperative Extension as established by the Smith-Lever Act was unique because it set up a shared partnership among the federal, state and county levels of government. Funding was shared to ensure that there was support from each of the levels of government to help the fledgling system achieve stability and leverage resources. The funding flows from Congress to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and then out to the land-grant universities throughout the United States to be matched with monies from the states and counties receiving programs.

The Legacy of the Land Grant at Ohio State

Ohio State University Extension is the community-based outreach unit of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State. Extension "empowers through education," and we're all about helping all Ohioans build better lives, better businesses and better communities.

OSU Extension delivers knowledge from Ohio State to every county in Ohio, and we work with people right where they live to strengthen their own lives and communities. Extension connects with people in all stages of life – from young children to older adults – from families and children to farmers and business owners, community leaders and elected officials.