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History of Extension

The University was established in 1878 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of the State of Mississippi. It became part of the nation's land-grant system created by the Morrill Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1862. Its mission was to educate students in "agriculture, horticulture, and the mechanic arts...without excluding other scientific and classical studies."

LeeAlthough the University has greatly expanded its educational opportunities in a number of arts and sciences disciplines, its commitment to agriculture has not diminished. For more than a century, this commitment has benefitted Mississippi's major industry and all of its people in immeasurable ways. The University's Division of Agriculture, Forestry, and Veterinary Medicine exists because of the state and the nation's commitment to making America's food and fiber system the most effective one in the world. That commitment dates to the mid-19th century and is as up-to-date as the space age. As a matter of fact, agriculture forms the indispensable base on which all our modern technological and economic advances rest.

The nation's more successful farmers have always been those that sought the most reliable information about agricultural practices. Among their ranks are founding fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. These gentlemen farmers maintained detailed production records and networks of contacts for information exchange.

As the United States developed, influential men like Washington and Jefferson expressed greater interest in a more scientific approach to agriculture. At the same time, interest in the general welfare of the common people increased. The federal government responded with a series of actions beginning with the establishing of the United States Department of Agriculture as a Presidential cabinet-level department in 1862.

Broader training and deeper scholarship in production and marketing of agricultural products was needed to enhance the nation's major industry. This need fueled one of the nation's greatest contributions to modern education--the agricultural and mechanical college. This approach to education combined the scholarly with the practical with the avowed purpose of improving opportunity for the masses.

The Morrill Act of 1882 established these colleges nationwide. Called the land-grant system, this class of colleges was originally endowed by grants of public lands in the developing western United States. Mississippi joined the movement with the first assignment of land-grant funding to Alcorn University and the University of Mississippi in 1871. The State A&M College near Starkville was established as Mississippi's land-grant institution in 1878.

HatchIn 1887, the Hatch Act established the agricultural experiment station system, modeled on European stations, but with a distinctly American interest in applied research. The Mississippi legislature responded with its experiment station act in 1888. Although the federal act bears the name of Missouri's William Henry Hatch, significant credit must be given to our state's Senator James Z. George. He introduced the first experiment station bill in 1885 only to see it stall in the House of Representatives.

The Second Morrill Act, passed in 1890 after 18 years of debate, provided for direct annual appropriations to each state to support its land-grant college.

The existence of land-grant colleges and experiment stations resulted in a growing logjam of knowledge that needed to be made available to the farmer and farm family in the field. A variety of activities including farmers institutes, agricultural societies, and corn and tomato clubs tried to meet these needs. In response, the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established cooperative extension work.

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Publications

Publication Number: M2186
Publication Number: M2099
Publication Number: F0135

News

The extended family of Ruby D. Rankin, 1960-2017, gathered Monday to celebrate the dedication of the local farmers market in honor of her 33 years as a community leader with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. (Photo by MSU Extension/Kevin Hudson)
Filed Under: County Extension Offices, Farmers Markets July 19, 2017

DEKALB, Miss. -- For 33 years, Ruby D. Rankin was the face of the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Kemper County, and her sudden death in early May surprised and saddened the local community.

More than 100 people gathered at a building dedication ceremony Monday in the Extension office in Kemper County to honor Rankin's life, service and impact on local individuals, various organizations and the entire community. The Kemper County Board of Supervisors honored Rankin's many accomplishments by naming the local farmers market in her honor.

Filed Under: About Extension, Food and Health, Health April 11, 2017

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The Mississippi Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, or MS-AND, has named David Buys as a recipient of one of its most distinguished awards.

A Mississippi State University Extension Service health specialist, Buys was presented with the MS-AND Magnolia Award earlier this month.

The Magnolia Award recognizes individuals outside of the dietetics profession who make significant contributions to the field. It is one of four awards MS-AND makes each year.

The glass ceiling Ann Fulcher Ruscoe shattered in 1996 was outside in the Mississippi Delta’s wide expanse of agricultural fields. In fall 2000, she worked with cotton grower Kenneth Hood of Gunnison. (File photo from the MSU Alumnus Magazine)
Filed Under: 4-H, About Extension, Women for Agriculture April 4, 2017

CLARKSDALE, Miss. -- Almost 200 years after Mississippi became a state, residents may find it difficult to imagine a time when women could not be Extension agricultural agents. That time was right up until the late 1990s when Ann Fulcher Ruscoe became the "county agent" for Coahoma County.

"Most entry level jobs for the Extension Service involved 4-H responsibilities. That's how I started in 1980 in Bolivar County," Ruscoe said. "Eventually, 4-H agents would usually become home economists if they were women or county agents if they were men."

Filed Under: Extension Administration January 27, 2017

VERONA, Miss. -- Jane Parish will take the reins at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center on Feb. 1.

Gary Jackson, director of the Mississippi State University Extension Service, and George Hopper, director of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, jointly announced her promotion from the Prairie Research Unit. Parish served as research and Extension professor at that unit since 2014.

Filed Under: Extension Administration January 27, 2017

BILOXI, Miss. -- James E. Henderson has been selected head of the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center.

When Henderson assumes his new role on Feb. 1, he will oversee the daily operations of the MSU Extension Service and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station in the southeastern region.

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