Cooperative Extension celebrates its centennial |

Cooperative Extension celebrates its centennial

Tiffany Kozsan and Claudene Wharton
UNCE Cooperative Extension
Dust kicks up from a cattle drive in Northern Nevada.

Since the Smith-Lever Act established the nationwide Cooperative Extension system in 1914, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has been a part of Nevada life, presenting research-based knowledge and programs to address critical community needs.

This county-state-federal partnership provides practical education to people, businesses and communities in all 17 Nevada counties. If you have ever been involved in a 4-H youth activity or had a question answered by a Master Gardener, you have been touched by one of Cooperative Extension’s more than 130 educational programs in the areas of children, youth and families; horticulture; health and nutrition; agriculture; natural resources; and community development.

During both World Wars, Cooperative Extension’s contributions increased as it trained Nevadans to meet the high demands of food production preservation and ingenuity, and later fire safety to protect food supplies. The 4-H Youth Leadership Development Program rapidly expanded as it taught boys and girls home economics, gardening, animal husbandry, canning and more. Today, 4-H continues to teach leadership, citizenship and life skills to nearly 50,000 Nevada youth ages 5 to 19 each year, through activities such as practicing robotics and raising animals, with an emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. In fact, Nevada Governor and alum Brian Sandoval ’86 is also a Nevada 4-H alum.

After the wars and moving into the 60s and 70s, Cooperative Extension continued to grow and adapted its programs to meet the needs of an increasingly urbanized Nevada. In 1972, its Master Gardeners Program began providing free, research-based horticulture information specific to Nevada’s challenging soils and climate to home gardeners across the state. Today, Nevada’s more than 615 active Master Gardeners, who receive intense training in plant-science skills, volunteer in more than 30 community gardens, teach workshops, educate at farmers markets and schools and provide information to about 87,000 gardeners annually.

As Cooperative Extension approached the turn of the century, it helped the state cope with new challenges. Cooperative Extension Natural Resource Specialist Ed Smith created the Living With Fire Program to collaborate with firefighting agencies and others to teach homeowners how to live more safely in Nevada’s increasingly high wildfire-hazard environments. Since the program’s inception in 1997, 19 other states have adapted Living With Fire educational materials to use in their own states.