Officially, Extension began in 1914 with the Smith-Lever Act.
Many changes and additions have happened through the years.
While starting with agriculture, home economics and 4-H soon
followed. The first home adviser began in Kankakee County in
1915, and the first official 4-H club started in Macoupin County
that same year. That first 4-H club was a pig club, but soon
there were clubs focused on corn, pigs, canning, sewing,
gardening, strawberries and calves.
Following are some local
historical notes for Logan County:
Logan County Extension was officially chartered Dec. 1, 2017,
as were Sangamon and Menard counties. The official beginning was
February of 1918. It began with a farm adviser named Elmer
Ebersol, who began selling county memberships in the combined
Extension and Farm Bureau system that remained in place until
1954, when the USDA officially said Extension was solely a USDA
program, thus ending the dual appointments with Extension and
Farm Bureau in the state of Illinois.
Locally, early projects included establishment of the county
Pure Bred Live Stock Breeders' Association, Pure Bred Beef
Cattle Breeders' Association, Pure Bred Dairy Cattle Breeders'
Association and the Pure Bred Swine Breeders' Association.
Soybeans were a new crop at that time, and their planting was
being encouraged. Of course, soybeans were used mainly for hay
in their early years. Spring wheat was the predominant wheat
crop of the time, and there were several thousand acres of oats.
Farm labor was a major concern of the time, and labor placements
were a major focus of Extension. The first soil survey of the
county was also begun.
The Logan County 4-H program began about 1920, with the first
4-H clubs focusing on the specific projects of swine and corn.
Later in 1923 there began a push for home economics-based clubs,
and the push was on to identify volunteer leaders. Everything
old is new again, and we have seen a return to specialized
interest 4-H clubs, with local SPIN clubs including shooting
sports, quilting, geology and others.
Home economics was added a few years later with the first
"home adviser." Focuses were on running a household and home
Logan County added an aggressive community resource
development program in the late 1970s. This program was
responsible for many of the community-wide surveys done in the
early 1980s, and those surveys even led to removal of the city
parking meters around the square and in municipal parking lots
Extension continues to evolve as needs of residents change.
Horticulture programming became more prevalent in the 1980s;
nontraditional youth programs such as school enrichment and special
interest clubs began in the 1980s; and the family nutrition program
started in the 1990s. The first Master Gardener training class in
Logan County was conducted in the fall of 2000. Web pages began to
be a communication medium in 2003, and today there is an average of
about 30,000 hits per month on the unit's Web pages.
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The Extension organization continues to change. Recently, the
organization underwent a major reorganization brought on by state
fiscal difficulties. The major impacts of the reorganization were on
the organizational structure and the resulting local educators.
Logan County is now part of the Logan, Menard and Sangamon Unit,
which is also known as Unit 16. There are 27 units in the state,
with most having three to five counties in each unit. There are
educators and support staff employed locally now, instead of
educators being centrally housed and funded as prior to the
reorganization. Unit 16 has five educators — for youth; metro
Springfield youth; small farms; horticulture; and nutrition and
wellness, and budgeting for low-income families. Twelve support
staff members provide assistance in these program areas and also
provide programming in agricultural literacy in all counties.
As Extension celebrates 100 years, we celebrate and salute the
involvement of great volunteers through our history. Volunteerism is
the lifeblood of Extension, whether the roles are as a 4-H leader, a
Master Gardener, a Master Naturalist, a committee member, a program
host or presenter, or an Extension council member. There are
currently over 500 active volunteers in the unit in these roles.
Funding itself is volunteer-driven, with volunteers working to pass
tax referendums in all three of the counties.
We celebrate our past, present and future together because
Extension belongs to the people. Extension extends knowledge from
the University of Illinois and helps change lives of the citizens of
University of Illinois Extension county director]