Have you ever heard of The Farmer's High School? In 1855 in Centre County, Pennsylvania it was opened to educate the state's young farmers. In 1863 it was chosen to be Pennsylvania's Land Grant University. Today it is called The Pennsylvania State University.
Land Grant Universities were established in 1862 under the Morrill Act, which gave every state 30,000 acres of federal land to fund a university that promoted Agriculture and Engineering for the state's population. In 1887 the Hatch Act started a partnership between the federal government and state governments to establish agricultural experimentation stations. These stations lead state specific agricultural research.
After this educational foundation was set, in 1914 The Smith-Lever Act sought to disseminate the information of the experimentation stations to farmers and homemakers in the state. Extension has evolved to include the 4-H program as well as the Master Gardener's program.
Extension is important because it keeps normal people up-to-date with current issues. They disseminated the information on the emerald ash borer that was affecting Pennsylvania's woodlands and helped Pennsylvania avoid the Avian Influenza that caused some states huge losses in their chicken flocks. I constantly refer to the publication, "Fruit Production for the Home Gardener" to determine which varieties are suggested for our climate and what insects and diseases are effecting the plants.
The Pennsylvania Cooperative Extension Service is currently a victim of the budget crisis. Governor Tom Wolf vetoed all funding for extension, funds that are shared between the College of Agriculture, Extension and its many research and education programs. If left unfunded, roughly 1,100 jobs will be lost, as well as countless years or research will be left unfinished. Pennsylvania farmers will have to contract consultants rather than rely on the free dissemination of education that Smith-Lever Act created.
And now you know!