By: U.S. Senator Mike Johanns
Signs that summer is here are everywhere: Warmer weather has set in, the smell of fresh-cut grass is prominent and local outdoor swimming pools are open for business. But another tell-tale sign of summer is influx of young people providing extra care to livestock, completing lavish sewing projects and tending the garden in preparation for competition at the county fair. From pullets to poetry to pumpkin pies, nearly one in three Nebraska youth will submit 4-H projects this summer, working toward a coveted 4-H purple ribbon.
4-H is a generations-old tradition that rewards folks for their hard work and instills lifelong leadership skills in our nation’s youth. It is an important part of the cooperative extension system. Specifically, it was the Smith-Lever Act in 1914 that officially created cooperative extensions, which recently celebrated a century of advancing agriculture and land management, promoting leadership and healthy living and instilling important life values across the nation.
The original purpose of the Smith-Lever Act was ‘to aid in diffusing among the people of the United States useful and practical information on subjects relating to agriculture …home economics, and rural energy, and to encourage the application of the same.”
The Act built upon endeavors at Land-Grant Universities, including the University of Nebraska, providing more opportunities for all Americans to improve upon their lives through educational and research initiatives. A century later, the UNL extension provides valuable services to throughout Nebraska. From research to education to leadership development, extension outreach has played an important role in the success of our great state.
4-H is but one well-known program under the extension service, engaging 140,000 Nebraska youth last year. UNL’s important research department – currently working on approximately 300 research projects in Nebraska – has helped to advance agriculture. Its unbiased research helps our number one industry thrive and grow by providing our farmers and ranchers with the necessary tools to feed a growing world.
UNL Extension is also committed to quick turnaround of its research, bringing their information to the classroom and the field as quickly as possible. Their education initiatives include a range of outlets. Extension employees visit individual classrooms to promote healthy eating patterns, host field days and crop production clinics for farmers and hold countless seminars promoting leadership, entrepreneurship and best business practices, to name a few.
As a former Governor and Secretary of Agriculture, I understand the important work of extension outreach in expanding the scientific knowledge and productivity of our farmers and ranchers. In Nebraska, the UNL extension service has played a pivotal role in the growth, development and sustainability of our way of life. It has helped solidify our role as a leading agriculture state and continues to instil important leadership and life skills in our youth to help ensure a prosperous future. There’s no doubt this past century of cooperative extension programs has yielded many benefits, and I’m confident the next 100 years will be equally impressive.