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Extension has a long and proud history of service to the people of Alabama. In 1906, four people were appointed to do farm demonstration work, a forerunner of what would become known as Extension programs. Created by an Act of Congress in 1914, the Alabama Extension Service was formed in 1915 to teach practical and technical skills to farmers and to generally improve the lives of rural residents. Today, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System is the primary outreach and engagement organization for the land-grant mission of Alabama A&M University and Auburn University in cooperation with Tuskegee University. You will find an Extension Office in all 67 Alabama counties, supported by Regional Extension Agents across the state, and Specialists at partner universities.

Early History

The concept of extension work traces its roots to the federal Morrill Act of 1862, which granted each state 30,000 acres of public land for each member of its congressional delegation. The lands were sold and the funds were used to endow colleges to teach agriculture and other practical arts.
The act made possible the establishment of Auburn University (then known as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama), which became the first headquarters of the statewide Alabama Extension program. The Morrill Act of 1890 secured continuing funding for land-grant schools and enabled the Huntsville Normal School, initially a teacher-training institution for African Americans, becoming the state’s second land-grant institution, Alabama A&M University, in 1891.

Birth of the 4-H Program

Auburn University organized “corn clubs” in 1909. These clubs were early forerunners of the 4-H clubs later developed by the USDA to involve youth in farming. Their purpose was to instruct school-age boys in advanced scientific farming methods so that they would pass along these practices to their fathers. Likewise, “tomato clubs” were organized so that girls could pass along new canning and other food-preservation techniques to their mothers.

Extension Work Formalized

The 1914 Smith-Lever Act formalized the national Cooperative Extension System and provided federal matching funds to states to establish a network of county agent offices. The act also stipulated that all extension work associated with USDA would be carried out through land-grant schools.

Over time, Extension programs expanded to include dairying, livestock production, agronomy, horticulture, farm marketing, food preservation, home-related improvements and 4-H.

Extension becomes a system

In 1995, Alabama’s Extension Service became the nation’s first unified effort by combining the programs of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. The merger stemmed from the landmark federal court ruling, Knight v. Alabama. Extension programs at Alabama A&M and Auburn were combined into a new entity called the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), which would serve as the statewide outreach organization for both institutions.

Alabama Extension Today – a Ready Partner

Visit our annual report to learn details of how Alabama Extension serves our state.

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