Extension, the helping hand

In the darkest days of the Great Depression, hope was hard to come by. Millions of unemployed people stood in bread lines; hobos rode the rails; thousands of highly educated, skilled professionals took any work they could get, however unrelated to their skills.

Somewhat insulated from the economic woes gripping the nation thanks to the college, Fort Collins fared reasonably well, but nearby rural areas stood in sharp contrast. Homemakers scrimped and saved and made do. Farmers strived to survive in very adverse conditions. Hanging on was difficult, to say the least.

Enter the Cooperative Extension Service. Formalized in 1914 through the Smith-Lever Act (although preceded for decades by farmers’ institutes and youth clubs), this partnership between land-grant colleges (like the one in Fort Collins) and U.S. Department of Agriculture offered a link between the college’s expertise and people who could benefit from that knowledge.

In the 1930s, Extension agents were lifesavers — teaching women how to sew a fine seam (including making their own hosiery), use available ingredients to make nutritious meals, and create useful household items out of whatever materials were on hand. Homemakers learned about baking at high altitude and making their homes more comfortable and attractive on a shoestring. Sometimes, their newly acquired learning translated into marketable skills.

The agents taught farmers more efficient ways of dealing with crop diseases, insect infestations and drought, which crops were best suited to the high-plains climate for higher yields, how to conserve the soil and beneficial livestock management practices,

Youth also benefited from the education the agents offered. Classes for children taught a variety of skills, from carpentry to baking. From the beginning, the extension-service program encouraged youth activities through 4-H, which began as educational outreach for rural young people and eventually expanded to encompass urban communities.

Throughout those bleak, discouraging years, the Cooperative Extension Service provided help in myriad ways, from bringing rural areas electricity to assisting with county fairs — making the agents warmly welcomed wherever they went.

Some believe those discouraging years are upon us again. If you feel that way and have questions about agriculture, horticulture, family and consumer sciences, or youth development, contact the local Extension Office at 264-5931 or check out our Web site at www.archuleta.colostate.edu. Remember: you’ll always find a helping hand in our neck of the woods.

Calendar

Feb. 20 — 1:30 p.m. Cloverbuds meeting.

Feb. 20 — 2 p.m. Rabbit Project meeting.

Feb. 20 — 3 p.m. Turkey Project meeting.

Feb. 20 — 3:30 p.m. Poultry Project meeting.

Feb. 23 — 4 p.m. Sewing Project meeting.

Feb. 24 — 5:30 p.m. Vet Science Project meeting at SJVH.

Feb. 25 — 3:30 p.m. Sportsfishing Project meeting.

Check out our Web page at www.archuleta.colostate.edu for calendar events and information.