The One to Count On...

Louisa County Looks Back at Extension’s 100 Year History

Posted: Wednesday, May 31st, 2017 at 6:28 am
Author: KCII News - Sam McIntosh

The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach program is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.

ISU Extension is housed in all 99 counties of the state, with the core purpose of providing research-based educational programs. Louisa County Extension Program Manager Kathy Vance did research on the office’s history in conjunction with the 100th anniversary. Vance said the program initially began in 1903 when farmers in eastern Iowa asked professors from what was formerly known as the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Engineering, to share their research on corn.

Vance talks about the significance of the Louisa County office opening 100 years ago, “In 1917, something happened in America that really made agriculture important, and that would be the first World War. So when farmers in April of 1918 are faced with feeding the military in Europe, feeding Europeans and feeding Americans through a war, well things can happen fast. Here’s an interesting note about Louisa County, and I found this out by doing research on the extension office. Our Wapello Farmers Elevator, which was a cooperative of farmers, our farm bureau, and our extension office all started within 60 days of each other and all just after we went into the war.”

Extension offices were formerly sponsored by companies, but in 1955 the Iowa legislature approved the extension offices as tax levying organizations. The Louisa County office broke off from Iowa Farm Bureau in 1955 and moved to Van Buren Street in Wapello. Vance talks about the history of the office’s service, “In Louisa County, Extension has been extremely significant through two big floods, of course, 1993 and 2008. We have a strong 4-H program, very strong in agriculture. But I also uncovered a lot of work in economic development, help for retailers in the 1980’s during the farm crisis. How do communities stay alive when the farmers are facing such dire financial issues. Well, we helped the communities with their marketing and advertising and extension did a lot of that.”

Vance says the Louisa County Extension has a forward thinking mentality in terms of the office’s longevity. The office installed solar panels in January. This is one way the office has made itself more financially independent, although Vance says she believes the state legislature and ISU will continue to support the extension program.