Extension to celebrate 100 years of service

August 16, 2011|By JEFF SEMLER |
  • Jeff Semler
Jeff Semler

As I write this column, I am in Kansas attending the National Association of County Agricultural Agents’ annual meeting and professional development conference.

One of my responsibilities is that of Maryland’s voting delegate, and one of the votes dealt with the selection of the site for the 2015 meeting.

This might seem insignificant, but that meeting will be the 100th. The idea of Extension was contained in the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, which means Extension will be 100 years old in 2014.

At the opening session, the keynote speaker was Gen. Richard Myers, retired, and the 15th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Myers is an alumnus of Kansas State University (and you thought land grant universities only produced Aggies).

He went on to share how he felt the work the land-grant university system, of which Extension is part, contributed to the greatness this country has attained. He gave the examples of how Extension spearheaded the increase in food production during the world wars, most notably the Victory Gardens of World War II.

In addition, he added that Extension will continue to need to play a large role as the world’s population is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050. Food is near the top when it comes to a person’s hierarchy of needs.

If you are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, food is actually at the bottom of the pyramid. This makes it the foundation upon which all other needs are based. In other words, without food the other needs are of no importance.

While here, we had the opportunity to see some of the sights, and when you get west of the Mississippi River, agriculture is an even larger sector of the economy. In many of these states, it is the No. 1 industry, often followed by tourism, which is closely linked with agriculture because it is the open spaces that contribute to the scenic beauty of these areas.

One of our stops was the National Agriculture Hall of Fame. Visiting there you could observe the progress in agricultural production.

Most of this progress would not have been possible without the foresight of President Abraham Lincoln and U.S. Rep. Justin Morrill of Vermont.

Many of you have seen the bumper stickers locally that say “No Farms, No Food.”

I saw a billboard that stated “Kansas, where our farmers feed 128 people and you.” Another of my favorites was a T-shirt at the National Agriculture Hall of Fame gift shop that quoted Wendell Berry, “Eating is an agricultural act.”

So as I close, let me say, Kansas is beautiful and not as flat as you have been told, at least not the eastern and north central sections.

Lastly, I will use one of my often selected quotes by a Kansas native, President Dwight Eisenhower, who said, “Farming looks easy when your plow is a pencil and you are 1,000 miles from the field.”

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by email at

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