University of Maryland Extension

Batter up! Celebrating 100 Years of Extension

Dean Cheng-i Wei throws out the first pitch at the Frederick Keys game on July 25 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Cooperative Extension Service
Image Credit: 
Edwin Remsberg

(The following article appeared in the July 28 edition of The Frederick News Post.)

Brian Biggins credits the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension for much of the knowledge he and his wife garnered over the years to start and run a successful farm. 

The Biggins’ Miolea Organic Farm in Adamstown has been in business seven years.

Biggins applauds the Extension Service for helping to foster an appreciation for gardening. With the program’s assistance, more people are planting gardens or starting farms, buying locally grown products and supporting sustainable growing practices, he said.

Cooperative Extension is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and the Frederick Keys invited Cheng-i Wei, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, to throw out the first pitch Friday to mark the milestone.

“This year, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act, which established the Cooperative Extension Service, a state-by-state national network of educators who extend university-based research and knowledge to the people,” Wei said.

(Above: Dean Wei high-fives Stephen Wright, Associate Dean & Associate Director of University of Maryland Extension, after throwing out the first pitch for The Frederick Keys.)

In Maryland, the Extension Service operates through the University of Maryland at College Park, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and is located in all 23 Maryland counties and Baltimore City. 

Extension faculty and staff provide research-based information, educational programs and services to strengthen the social, economic and environmental well-being of families, communities and agricultural enterprises. Its programs cover topics such as environmental and natural resources, agriculture, 4-H and youth development, health and wellness, money, food and nutrition, home gardening, and water and the Chesapeake Bay.

Local farmers say Cooperative Extension is a benefit not many people get in other business ventures.

“If you look at what Extension does, Frederick County is very lucky to have that resource,” said Biggins, who is a member of the local Extension Advisory Council. “You’re looking at professional people spending their entire lives teaching and helping farmers and gardeners not only get started but maintain successful farm enterprises.”

Terry Poole, University of Maryland Extension principal agent emeritus, has clocked more than 35 years with Extension. He teaches “Beginning a Successful Small Farm Operation,” a two-part, seven-week, 14-hour course, designed to provide the basic knowledge needed by new and inexperienced farmers as they begin the process of developing new farm enterprises.

“I wish that more of the public knew about what University of Maryland Extension can offer, and how it can help them,” Poole said.

When Poole began his agriculture experience in Frederick County, the county had 1,402 farms on 248,910 acres with an average farm size of 178 acres. In 2012, there were 1,308 farms in the county on 181,512 acres with an average size of 139 acres.

“Over my career I have watched the growth in the numbers of small farms in the county, as they went from 53 percent in 1978 to 89 percent ... in 2012” due in large part to extension services, Poole said.

University of Maryland Extension has been the leader in teaching the nutrient management program, Poole said.

“Yes, it is a 1998 state law that many in ag dislike, but Extension has worked hard to help the ag community be in compliance with the law,” he said.

Though the nutrient management program is unpopular, Poole said it has saved local farmers many thousands of dollars that would been wasted through excess fertilizer application and has prevented these excess nutrients from getting into the environment.

The same can be said about pesticide use in the county, Poole said; extension has continued to provide training and re-certification classes for pesticide applicators as well as research-based recommendations for pest management that have helped protect crops, the environment, and the public.

Despite being around for 100 years, Poole said he is amazed that many people have not heard of Extension.

The public should know the Extension Service is not just about farming, Poole said, but also provides programs on food and nutrition, family finances, non-traditional 4-H opportunities unrelated to farming, home and garden, and master gardeners.

 

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