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Understanding MU Extension History Offers Insight to Assistance Provided in Douglas County

AVA, Mo. – The Douglas County Extension Office has a federally mandated mission to carry the benefits of research held by the University of Missouri to the citizens of Douglas County.  The city of Ava and state mandated county support allows faculty and staff to share that knowledge with Douglas County. The goal of county extension offices around the state is to improve the lives of Missourians with this research and information.  The county extension office is literally a door to the University of Missouri.  

Between May and September, the Douglas County Extension office helped fourteen farms by providing 80 soil tests designed to help local farmers with hay and crop production.  The extension office facilitated four hay tests, conducted nitrate tests in 31 different fields, provided twelve citizens with private pesticide application training, and agricultural specialists went on two farm visits to better assist local farmers with their questions.  

During that period, the extension office offered a grazing school attended by twenty-two citizens.  Three MU exam tests were proctored, and one compost test was sent to the University of Missouri.  The Douglas County Extension office held a meeting to provide drought information and survival in which 15 people benefited.  With a partnership with Douglas County Farm Bureau 130 people were served hot dogs and hamburgers to make citizens aware of both organizations and their missions.  

Douglas County Extension houses two nutrition educators.  These educators go to Douglas County schools as well as area businesses teaching proper nutrition.  Between May and September, the nutrition program reached 4,973 adults and children.  

The extension office received over 100 phone calls since May requesting information or identification on forage, horticulture and pests, pesticide spraying, brush spraying, gardening tips, and 4-H interest.  The compilation of a new hay directory was attempted during this time, but due to drought, conditions did not come to fruition.  

The final program found within the Douglas County Extension office is the Douglas County 4-H program.  Douglas County currently has three 4-H clubs, which serves 42 children.  The mission of Missouri 4-H is enable the youth to find their interest by providing hands-on activities to learn new things.  4-H strives to help the youth to become successful and confident members of society.       

The history of the state extension program is tied to the history of the University of Missouri.  Having a county extension office is having an easily accessible access to the university itself.  Therefore knowledge of how the university and the extension program came about along with why extension was created can give citizens a greater appreciation for what they have available. 

In 1839, the University of Missouri was established in Columbia as the first publically supported higher education institution in the Louisiana Purchase territory.  Four short years later, the university held its first graduate commencement ceremony.  There were two graduates with the ceremony taking three hours.  It appeared the University of Missouri was well on its way in building its reputation and its graduates.  

In 1862, with the outbreak of the American Civil War, the university was forced to close its doors due to the uncertainty and turmoil of the situation.  After a yearlong shut down, the university was up and running.  By 1868, the university began allowing women to attend.  In 1870, the university received a land grand status, which allowed the university to build an agriculture department as well as a mechanical arts program.  

The United States Congress has passed legislation known as the Morrill Act in 1862.  The Morrill Act gives states public lands provided the lands be sold or used for a profit with those proceeds to go towards establishing at least one college that would teach agriculture and mechanical arts.  The Morrill Act helped extend higher education to broad segments of the United State population.  With the land grant status, the University of Missouri purchased the college in Rolla and added it to their system.  In addition, those universities with land grant status were mandated to teach to their populations’ research and information from the university.  Thus, the beginnings of the modern extension program were established.  

The modern extension program got its final mandate in 1914 with the Smith Lever Act.  Under this act, land grant universities were required to inform citizens about current improvements in agriculture, home economics, public policy, leadership, 4-H, economic development, and coastal issues.  This act greatly aided Missouri farmers by helping them learn new farming techniques at their farms and in their counties.  

Today, the University of Missouri Extension uses university research-based knowledge to help people understand change, solve problems, and make informed decisions.  The three grand challenges for MU Extensions is to focus on assisting with economic opportunities, educational excellence, and healthy futures using a variety of programs, articles, and one on one conversations between extension specialists and Missourians.  

Information on county programs and other helpful tips on a variety of topics ranging from agricultural to technology can be found on the Douglas County Extension website,  The office has a Facebook page, University of Missouri Extension Center Douglas County.  For any questions or concerns, contact the extension office at 417-683-4409.