Time Machine Tuesday: The Colorado Extension

In 1914 the Federal government passed the Smith-Lever Act, which established a system of Cooperative Extensions at American land grant universities, including the Colorado Agricultural College (today’s Colorado State University). Extensions were set up to provide rural and agricultural communities with classes, clubs, demonstrations, and publications to help them learn about farm, garden, and home economics practices. To introduce Coloradans to the program, the Colorado Agricultural College and the U.S. Department of Agriculture produced the publication The Smith-Lever Act and What It Provides for Colorado Farmers and Housekeepers, which you can read online from our library.

Ten years after the Act, the university published Agricultural Extension in Colorado: A Record in Word and Picturealso available to view online from our library. This commemorative publication describes the purpose, activities, and successes of Colorado’s Extension, and is full of great photos of farm and rural life in Colorado in the ‘teens and ‘twenties.

Colorado’s extension work had actually preceded the Smith-Lever Act. In 1912, the Colorado Agricultural College sponsored the office of the “State Leader of Farm Management Field Studies and Demonstration for Colorado.” Logan County was the first Colorado county to appoint an extension agent that year, and several others followed over the next two years. Then, in 1914, after the Federal law went into effect, Colorado’s Extension became official through an agreement between the College and the U.S. government. For more on the history of the establishment of the Extension in Colorado, including legislation, see this section from the CSU Extension’s staff handbook. The Extension has also produced a short video on their history.

Since its founding, the Extension has produced hundreds of bulletins and fact sheets on a wide variety of topics. CSU’s Extension is still going strong today, with county extension offices, classes, volunteer programs like the Colorado Master Gardener Program and Planttalk, and much more, in addition to their publications. To learn about their work and how to get involved, visit the CSU Extenison’s website. To read Extension publications from a century ago to the present, search our library’s digital repository.

Inside the Weld County Extension Office, showing the many publications offered, 1924.