In the century since it was created, Cooperative Extension has not only translated university research into community solutions, but it has helped shape the Arizona of today, University of Arizona officials said Thursday during a celebration of the program's centennial.
One hundred years to the day after U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act that created Cooperative Extension on May 8, 1914, members of Arizona Cooperative Extension, a program of the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, gathered at the UA Campus Agricultural Center to honor the program’s contributions.
“In the past 100 years Cooperative Extension has served to transform Arizona from a raw, wild, Western frontier into the vibrant community of today,” said Jeff Silvertooth, associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Silvertooth also is director of economic development and extension for the college and a professor at the UA Institute of the Environment.
Cooperative Extension is an explicit component of land-grant institutions across the United States with a mission to bridge the gap between higher education and community, respond to societal needs and bring science to bear on practical problems.
As the only land-grant institution in Arizona, the UA has a long history of partnering with communities through Cooperative Extension in every county in Arizona and on five Native American reservations.
“In 1914, Bisbee was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco,” Silvertooth noted. “Cooperative Extension was there to play an important role, connecting a new university with a new state.”
“I respect and appreciate all that’s been done in the past 100 years,” Silvertooth said. “I know that moving forward depends on the application of good science, good education and the fundamental principles that have been brought to us today as our societies and as our environments change around us.”
“When we look at the economic impact of agriculture, there are entire communities that wouldn’t exist without programs that support them like Cooperative Extension,” said Orr, who is a third-generation UA alum and a native of Tucson.
Orr also shared a special recognition from Arizona Gov. Janice Brewer congratulating UA Cooperative Extension on its centennial “and its contributions to Arizona’s economy and to the education, health and well-being of its citizens through sharing university-based research with communities.”
Arizona Cooperative Extension’s robust program for leveraging federal and state funding allocations has produced a threefold return on investment, with the program successfully bringing in grants and funds from external sources.
Arizona Cooperative Extension accounts for 36 to 40 percent of all College of Agriculture and Life Sciences grants and contracts, and in 2013 the program engaged about 20,000 volunteers across Arizona and enrolled nearly 200,000 youth in Cooperative Extension programs.
At the celebration, Silvertooth announced a recent allocation of an additional $3.5 million to Cooperative Extension by the Arizona Legislature.
“President (Ann Weaver) Hart recognized the value of Cooperative Extension to connect with the people of the state and took that as one of her initiatives to the Arizona Board of Regents. Now we have the opportunity to move this organization forward in a very positive and constructive manner in the coming years,” Silvertooth said.
“We take on the big issues,” noted keynote speaker Gerry Bohmfalk, former president and former member of the board of directors of Project CENTRL, an initiative of UA Cooperative Extension aimed at promoting rural leadership. Bohmfalk highlighted some of Cooperative Extension’s many community-centered achievements. “We’ve got to keep this going,” he said.
Nationally acclaimed local Tucson artist Diana Madaras, owner of two art galleries in Tucson and president of the nonprofit Art for Animals Foundation, presented Arizona Cooperative Extension with a commemorative centennial painting made possible by a donation from the Stanford Family Memorial.
“Cooperative Extension has woven through all of our lives,” said Madaras, who is a UA alum and former 4-H participant. “It’s an honor to be asked to create this painting.”
The event concluded with special recognition and presentation of a plaque by Silvertooth to a select group of honorees who have made unique and outstanding contributions to Cooperative Extension in past years.
“Extension still is a critical and fundamental component of our land-grant system,” Silvertooth said. “We’re bringing the University to all sectors of the state, and we’re bringing science to bear on practical problems that we all face.”
“We’re not celebrating an ending,” Bohmfalk said. “We’re celebrating a party that’s going to go on and last another one hundred years and beyond.”
The celebration was the second of four events that will commemorate Cooperative Extension's centennial. A northern Arizona centennial event will be held at the V Bar V Ranch in Yavapai County on July 24, and "Celebrating the Past, Envisioning the Future – Centennial Event" will be held in Phoenix on Oct. 4. Visit extension.arizona.edu/centennial for more information about these events.