Taking the University to the People: University of California
Agriculture and Natural Resources Oral History Project

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Timeline and History
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Project Historical Context and Timeline

The Cooperative Extension Service system was created by the U.S. Congress out of concern for providing a broader education for the average citizen. In 1862 Congress passed the Morrill Act, which provided for a university in each state to provide education to citizens in agricultural and mechanical fields and these colleges are known today as "Land-Grant Universities." Congress soon realized that to be effective, the educational function of land-grant universities needed to be supplemented with research capabilities and passed the Hatch Act in 1887 to provide for the establishment of research farms where universities could conduct research into agricultural, mechanical, and related problems faced by rural citizens. Congress passed the Smith Lever Act in 1914. This act provided for the establishment of the Cooperative Extension Service.

Once the South left the Union, the remaining northern states began passing a number of measures which the South had blocked prior to 1860. Many of these laws, such as the authorization of the transcontinental railroads, helped to spur on economic growth and expansion in the western territories. In 1862 Congress passed two such measures. The first being the Homestead Act that permitted any citizen, or any person who intended to become a citizen, to receive 160 acres of public land, and then to purchase it at a nominal fee after living on the land for five years. The Homestead Act provided the most generous terms of any land act in American history to enable people to settle and own their own farms. Just as important was the Morrill Act of that year, which made it possible for the new western states to establish colleges for their citizens to fulfill the central tenet that basic education was central to creation of the American democratic process. By the 1860s, as higher education became more accessible many politicians and educators wanted to make it possible for all young Americans to receive some sort of advanced education.

Sponsored by Congressman Justin Morrill of Vermont, who had been pressing for it since 1857, the Morrill Act gave every state that had remained in the Union, a grant of 30,000 acres of public land for every member of its congressional delegation. Since under the Constitution every state had at least two senators and one representative, even the smallest state received 90,000 acres. The states were to sell this land and use the proceeds to establish colleges in engineering, agriculture and military science. Over seventy "land grant" colleges, as they came to be known, were established under the original Morrill Act; a second act in 1890 extended the land grant provisions to the sixteen southern states. The importance of the land grant colleges cannot be exaggerated. Although originally started as agricultural and technical schools, many of them grew, with additional state aid, into large public universities which over the years have educated millions of American citizens who otherwise might not have been able to afford college.

The Hatch Act of 1887 established agricultural experiment stations in connection with the colleges established by the Morrill Act and was supported by the Adams Act of 1906, the Purnell Act of 1925, the Bankhead-Jones Act of 1935. The original Act defined the term "State agricultural experiment station" to be a body under the direction of the college or university or agricultural departments of the college or university in each State. Congress intended the Act to promote the efficient production, marketing, distribution, and utilization of products of the farm for the health and welfare of Americans and to promote a sound and prosperous agriculture and rural life style. It is also the intent of Congress to assure agriculture a position in research equal to that of industry, which will aid in maintaining an equitable balance between agriculture and other segments of the economy.

The 1914 Smith-Lever Act established the Cooperative Extension as a partnership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the land-grant universities authorized by the Federal Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. Legislation in the various States enabled local governments or organized groups to become a third legal partner in this education endeavor. Today, this educational system includes professionals in each of America's 1862 land-grant universities (in the 50 States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Marianas, American Samoa, Micronesia, and the District of Columbia) and in the Tuskegee University and sixteen 1890 land-grant universities.

In California the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, part of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Congress created CSREES through the 1994 Department Reorganization Act. The University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) is a statewide network of campus based Agricultural Experiment Station researchers and Cooperative Extension specialists located on the Berkeley, Davis and Riverside campuses working collaboratively with The University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. ANR is a statewide network of campus based Agricultural Experiment Station researchers and Cooperative Extension specialists located on the Berkeley, Davis and Riverside campuses working collaboratively with county-based Cooperative Extension advisors located in 50 county offices throughout the state. ANR members are dedicated to creating, developing and delivering knowledge and practical information in agricultural, natural and human resources to improve the quality of life of Californians.

The extension service has served Californians for over 100 years through programs aimed at food safety, master gardening, nutrition, community programs, family services, 4-H, forestry, air, land and water resources, wildlife, and sustainability of agriculture (dairy, field crops, viticulture, animal husbandry, ornamental plant nurseries, and cutting edge scientific research and development in technology, the biosciences, and biotechnology and safety.

Historic Timeline [PDF]



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