ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala. – February is designated as Black History Month. Throughout the month, people highlight the many achievements of African Americans in all forms of expression. Throughout the history of Cooperative Extension in the state of Alabama, African Americans have made huge impacts to Alabama communities. One of the greatest contributions was the Jesup Agricultural Wagon.
The Jesup Agricultural Wagon
The Jesup Agricultural Wagon was first used by noted Tuskegee Institute scientist and teacher George Washington Carver in 1906. It allowed Carver to teach farmers and poor sharecroppers how to grow crops such as sweet potatoes, peanuts, soybeans and pecans.
The wagon’s name originates from Morris Jesup, a New York banker, who financed the project. However, it was Carver himself who designed the wagon, selected the equipment and developed the lessons for farmers. This successful outreach model was later adopted by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Allen Malone, 1890 Extension administrator, said the Jesup Wagon has had a tremendous impact on modern Extension programming.
“Some of the programming done by Extension today takes the model of the Jesup Wagon and uses it to relay information to modern-day communities,” Malone said. “Without the work of the Jesup wagons, Extension and the way we educate communities would have a different look today.”
Modern-Day Jesup Wagons
Today, Alabama Extension uses two modern-day Jesup wagons for educational purposes. The Water Wheels Mobile Conservation Laboratory (Water Wheels) and the Nutrition Education on the Move Bus (Nutrition Bus) are housed on the campus of Alabama A&M University and the Winifred Thomas Agricultural Research Station.
Water Wheels is a 36-foot water conservation laboratory that comes equipped with 15 gaming computers. It also has a rainwater collection and disbursement system and other educational resources. The mobile lab travels across the state to educate Alabama residents about the importance of water conservation.
“Water Wheels is a great tool to teach audiences of all ages how to preserve one of the greatest natural resources—water,” said Rudy Pacumbaba, an Alabama Extension horticulturist. “Students are always amazed by what they learn and how water is considered a limited resource.”
The Nutrition Bus is another mobile vehicle that enables Alabama Extension educators to go into neighborhoods to teach basic nutrition classes. The Nutrition Bus comes equipped with a mini kitchen that makes food and hand washing demonstrations convenient. This vehicle is ideal for Hispanic audiences that are sometimes reluctant to attend public events.
“The use of the Nutrition Bus has allowed Extension to come full circle in reaching underserved audiences,” said Terence Martin, Alabama Extension EFNEP manager. “Youth particularly like the bus because it reminds them of ice cream trucks rolling into their neighborhoods. It is easily identifiable and they look forward to the food demonstrations.”
The Value of Mobile Vehicles
Whether in the past or in modern-day settings, mobile vehicles allow for greater interaction between educators and participants. Participants also receive immediate hands-on training that can be applied in their daily lives.
George Washington Carver probably had no idea that he would not only change the course of agricultural history, but Alabama Extension history as well. This invention is a perfect example of how land-grant universities like Auburn, Tuskegee and Alabama A&M fulfill the three-fold mission in research, teaching and Extension.
Visit www.aces.edu to learn more about how Alabama Extension continues to impact the communities it serves.
This is the first article of the Alabama Extension in History series. Each article will give a look into Alabama Extension and how it impacts the communities it serves.
Featured Image: Courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Alabama; used with permission of Tuskegee University