Business & Community
One of the greatest contributions to Cooperative Extension was the Jesup Agricultural Wagon. The Jesup Agricultural Wagon was first used by noted Tuskegee Institute scientist and teacher George Washington Carver in 1906. It was a mobile classroom that allowed Carver to teach farmers and 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. The earlier model was a horse drawn carriage that was later replaced by a mobile truck. Regardless of how it ran, this successful outreach model was widely adopted by the United States Department of Agriculture. Mobile vehicles continue to be modeled today by organizations like the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Modern-Day Jesup Wagons
Today, Alabama Extension at Alabama A&M University (AAMU) 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 AAMU campus and the Winifred Thomas Agricultural Research Station in Hazelgreen, Alabama.
Water Wheels is a 36-foot water conservation laboratory that comes equipped with gaming computers, 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. People learn about such topics as watersheds, water pollution, and how to install a rainwater collection system.
The Nutrition Education on the Move 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 educating hard-to-reach audiences, and makes a great attraction at fairs, schools, and other venues.
The Value of Mobile Vehicles
Whether in the past or in modern-day settings, mobile vehicles allow for greater interaction between Extension 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.
Featured Image: Courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Alabama; used with permission of Tuskegee University