100 Years of Extension in Florida

May 8, 2014 marks the 100th Anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act, which established America’s Cooperative Extension Service. Let’s take a brief look back at Extension’s growth and evolution in Florida, year by year.

Before Extension

1862 President Abraham Lincoln signs the Morrill Act establishing a land-grant university system, funding colleges for the teaching of agricultural and mechanical arts. The first Morrill Act had actually been passed by congress in 1859, but had been vetoed by President James Buchanan.

1862 The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is established by President Lincoln.

1884 The Florida College of Agriculture (later UF), Florida’s first land-grant university, is established in Lake City.

Cadet Band

1887 The Hatch Act establishes a national system of Agricultural Experiment Stations tied to land-grant universities for the purposes of scientific research. Ag Experiment Stations, together with the USDA and land-grant colleges, would form the foundation from which Extension grew.

1887 The State Normal College for Colored Students (later Florida A&M) established in Tallahassee.

1888 The Florida Agricultural Experiment Station is established at the Florida Agricultural College in Lake City.

1890 Because many state legislatures would not admit people of color to land-grant universities, a 2nd Morrill Act establishes African-American land-grant universities.

1891 Florida A&M becomes Florida’s second land-grant university.

1899 The first “Farmers Institute” is established in Florida to provide demonstrations in modern agricultural techniques.

1902 Seaman Knapp is appointed by the USDA to help Texas cotton farmers combat boll weevil infestation. Knapp designed “demonstration farms” that would become the basis for Extension work.


1906 The Florida College of Agriculture and the Agricultural Experiment Station move to Gainesville to become part of the new University of Florida.

1906 George Washington Carver of the Tuskegee Institute designs the Jesup Agricultural Wagon–a compact, mule-drawn cart carrying farm machinery, seeds, and dairy equipment to demonstrate improved agriculture methods to farmers in rural Alabama.

1908 Agnes Ellen Harris begins conducting canning demonstrations in Ocala, eventually leading to the creation of Extension Home Demonstration.


1909 The Florida State Legislature makes its first appropriation of $7,500 for agricultural demonstration work.

1909 J. J. Vernon, University of Florida Dean of Agriculture, organizes the first “corn” clubs for boys in Alachua, Bradford and Marion counties. These corn clubs would eventually form the basis of 4-H clubs.

Corn Club boys and their parents.

1909 The report of Country Life Commission, a special work group created by President Theodore Roosevelt, recommends the establishment of a national Extension service to inform rural families about modern techniques in agriculture and home economics.

1911 The first of several “Better Farming Special” trains tours Florida, giving demonstrations in modern techniques of farming, livestock and domestic arts.

1911 Congressman Asbury Lever (SC) introduces a bill on the House floor to establish federal support for Extension work. Later, Senator Hoke Smith (GA) would introduce a companion bill in the Senate.


1912 The first “tomato” clubs for girls are organized through public schools in Florida. Tomato clubs would later become part of nationwide 4-H clubs.

The First 50 Years

1914 U.S. Congress passes the Smith-Lever Act, and is signed by President Woodrow Wilson on May 8. The act establishes the national Agricultural Extension Service, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, funded by the federal government with matching funds from each state, to inform the public about issues relating to agriculture and home economics.

1915 The Florida Legislature accepts the Smith-Lever Act; P.H. Rolfs, director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, becomes the first director of Extension.

1915 Segregated Extension work with African-American Floridians begins when more than 1,200 youth enroll in farm and home makers’ clubs organized through Florida A&M University.


1915 Extension agents take on a program to inoculate hogs against hog cholera epidemic. Inoculating hogs would become an early staple of Extension work.

1916 Florida Extension Homemaker Council Established to promote new scientific information through practical demonstrations.

1917 The Agricultural News Service, Florida Extension’s first mass media effort, publishes first issue.

1917 The Citrus Experiment Station, the first permanent branch research station in the state, opens in Lake Alfred.

1917 U.S. entry into World War I. Extension called on to help increase Florida’s food production and preservation.

1921 The North Florida Experiment Station is established at Quincy.

1922 The first school lunch program in Florida’s rural schools is organized by extension home demonstration agents in Orange and Osceola counties.

1922 The first Farmers Week established at University of Florida.

Main entrance to UF campus at 13th and University Ave, 1927.

1922 The Capper Volstead Act gives legal status to farm co-ops. Many extension agents were instrumental in setting up and managing co-ops in their counties.

1924 4-H name and clover emblem patented.


1924 Everglades Experiment Station established at Belle Glade. Four years later, the station would be struck by a devastating hurricane.

1925 The Purnell Act provides funds for economic and social research by agricultural experiment stations.

1926 Camp Timpoochee becomes the first permanent 4-H camp in Florida.

1928 Capper-Ketcham Act provides for the further development of agricultural extension work at the 1862 land-grant colleges.

1928 Florida Extension Service begins radio broadcasts.

1929 Great Depression begins. Florida Extension Home Demonstration agents respond by giving courses in canning, clothing repair and selling home-produced products.

1934 4-H Camp McQuarrie acquired.

1937 4-H Camp Cherry Lake opens in North Florida.

1937 The Range Cattle Experiment Station is established at Ona.

1939 The Florida Legislature creates the School of Forestry at the University of Florida.

1940 Extension begins work with USDA’s Rural Electrification Administration to bring electrical power to Florida’s farms and ranches.


1943 West Florida Experiment Station is established at Jay.

1947 John Haynie is appointed the state’s first Extension Apiculturist to modernize beekeeping programs.

Boys from the Salem School packaging bees 04-1956.

1948 Indian River Field Laboratory is established at Fort Pierce.

1949 4-H Camp Doe Lake in the Ocala National Forest established for African-American 4-H’ers.

Doe Lake2

1950 Suwannee Valley Experiment Station established at Live Oak.

1950 4-H Camp Cloverleaf opens.

1952 The First television program produced by Extension airs on Jacksonville’s WMBR-TV (now WJXT)

1952 4-H grows to 1,294 clubs in Florida, reaching 110,113 youth.

1953 Smith-Lever Act Amendment simplified and consolidated ten separate laws relating to Extension. Established new funding procedures based on rural/urban population formula and amounts.

1955 Florida 4-H club is established with Seminole Tribe in South Florida.

Seminole 4H

1955 An amendment to the Smith-Lever Act authorizes work with disadvantaged farms and farm families and funds for Extension outside the traditional funding “formula.”

1958 The Extension Plant Disease Clinic is established to diagnose diseases of crops, ornamentals and trees, and to suggest control measures.

1961 The Food Science Extension Program initiated, offering short courses on food additives, water quality, and flavor chemistry research.


1964 The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is established as the unifying administrative umbrella for UF’s programs in agriculture, forestry and related programs.

1964 The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws most forms of discrimination by race, religion and gender.

1964 State Extension Home Demonstration headquarters move from Tallahassee to Gainesville.

1964 4-H becomes co-educational.

1965 Florida Extension programs are racially integrated.

1966 African-American youth attend the statewide 4-H club conference for the first time.

African American, 4-H center, sign, pamphlet. Source: Smather's Archives.

1966 4-H begins transition out of school-based programs into volunteer-led community project clubs.

1966 Sea Grant established through the National Sea Grant College and Program Act.

1968 Special Help for Agricultural Research and Education (SHARE) Council established to raise funds for agricultural research and education.

1969 USDA and Extension initiates Florida’s Expanded Food Education Program (EFNEP) to educate limited-income families on diet and nutritional issues.

1970 Florida Agricultural Extension Service changes its name to Florida Cooperative Extension Service in order to reflect the expansion of Extension’s mission.

1970 State Extension Management and Information System computerizes Extension reporting for the first time.

1971 Florida Sea Grant is established as a joint effort between the National Sea Grant College and Florida Cooperative Extension Service. The Marine Advisory Program is established to handle Florida Sea Grant’s Extension Work.


1972 Monroe County becomes the 67th and final county in the state to establish an extension office.

1972 Cooperative Extension Programs are established at Florida A&M University to intensify efforts to reach low-income citizens.

1973 The Florida 4-H Foundation is chartered.

1975 The Names of all Florida’s agricultural experiment stations and field labs changes to research and education centers (RECs). There are currently 16 RECs in Florida.

1979 Extension’s Florida Master Gardener Program established to offer intense home horticulture training to individuals who then volunteer in their communities.


1984 Over 10,400 adult and teen volunteers work with 84,000 Florida 4-H youth.

1987 Florida Lakewatch, an Extension-led volunteer program to monitor water quality, takes first water sample.

1995 The Family Nutrition Program (FNP) is established for food stamp recipients in 35 Florida counties.

1995 Extension’s first comprehensive website, the Florida Agricultural Information Retrieval System (FAIRS), goes online.

1998 The Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN) is established to collect and share weather data with Florida’s growers.


1998 The Extension Data Information Source (EDIS) established as the online source for UF/IFAS Extension’s research-based, up-to-date educational resources.


1998 Fishing For Success, a program that uses fishing and other activities to introduce children to aquatic environmental sciences, begins at UF/IFAS’ School of Forest Resources and Conservation.

2001 The Florida Master Naturalist Program begins to train educators to work with the public in promoting awareness, understanding and respect for Florida’s natural world.

2003 Distance Diagnostic Information System (DDIS) enables homeowners and commercial growers to treat plant and insect problems over the internet.

2004 “Family Album Radio” program debuts, covering such topics as nutrition, family relationships and communication.


2005 Extension’s Program for Resource Efficient Communities established, begins work with developers on sustainable community planning in Harmony, FL.

2005 4-H’s Operation: Military Kids partners with U.S. Armed Forces to help families adjust to military deployment.

2006 “Gardening in a Minute,” a UF/IFAS Extension radio series, begins broadcast.

2008 Florida Friendly Landscaping program is established to help Floridians create beautiful, sustainable landscapes using native plants that need little irrigation.


2009 On its 100th anniversary, Florida 4-H membership reaches 234,000 youth, with help from 10,000 volunteers.

2012 4H Day at the Capitol.  UF/IFAS Photo by Dawn McKinstry.

2010 The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Gulf of Mexico; Florida Sea Grant and UF/IFAS Extension mobilize to test safety of gulf’s seafood.

2014 UF/IFAS Extension celebrates its 100th anniversary!



Posted: May 8, 2014

Category: Smith-Lever, UF/IFAS Communications, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: 4-H, Agriculture, College Of Agricultural And Life Sciences, Extension 100 Years, Florida A & M, Master Gardener, Smith-Lever Act, Smith-Lever Anniversary, UF/IFAS Extension

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