History of Extension

University of Missouri Extension is an innovative leader — using science-based knowledge to engage people in understanding change, solving problems and making informed decisions.

Federal Acts

University of Missouri Extension has its roots in the federal acts that enabled the university to deliver the practical benefits of education and scientific research to the people to improve their economic prospects and quality of life.

The Morrill Act of 1862 established the University of Missouri as a land-grant university. The act gave grants of land to states with the provision that proceeds from the sale of those lands be used to establish public colleges or universities to educate citizens in agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts and other practical professions. The Morrill Act of 1890, which established Lincoln University, provided additional funds to ensure that the land grants were open to all citizens without regard to race.

In 1887, the Hatch Act established agricultural experiment stations at land-grant universities. The University of Missouri currently conducts research to aid agricultural producers and to ensure a safe food supply at 15 research farms and centers.

The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established the Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service, a partnership among federal, state and county governments allowing universities to extend their programs to all people — not just students.

Extension in Missouri

Initially, the extension program concentrated on working with farmers and their families, which comprised the majority of the nation's population, to improve their quality of life and standard of living. Extension workers demonstrated how to produce more and better varieties of agricultural commodities; how to benefit from better nutrition, clothing and housing; and how to work together to bring about major improvements, such as electric cooperatives.

As the population shifted to the cities, Missouri's extension program expanded to include programs for urban populations. Currently, those include after-school youth leadership programs in federal housing developments, food and nutrition education for limited-resource populations and labor education delivered through interactive television.

In 1927, 4-H became a part of cooperative extension. Today, one in five Missouri youths, ages 5 to 19, participate in a 4-H educational program. The University of Missouri 4-H Center for Youth Development provides education in leadership, citizenship and community service through nearly 1,100 4-H clubs, school enrichment programs, special-interest activities, conferences and camps. More than 17,000 adult and youth volunteers lead hands-on projects in science, conflict resolution, workforce preparedness, computer science and 60 other topics.

County Extension Councils

In 1955, state legislation required counties to establish county extension councils to advise the University of Missouri on educational programs. Today, some 2,000 citizens volunteer their time and effort to assess local educational needs and to work with extension faculty in delivering and evaluating the programs. Appropriations from county commissions provide operating funds for county extension offices and secretarial support.

Continuing Education

The University of Missouri took a major step forward in 1960 when it combined continuing education and cooperative extension programs. Today, continuing education programs in fire and rescue training, law enforcement and many other topics are essential to the livelihood of Missourians.

In 1972, the University of Missouri and Lincoln University established a unified extension program — the nation's first such partnership between two state land-grant universities. Technical assistance for families on small farms and leadership education for African-American youths are results of that successful partnership.

In 2004, the Office of the Provost at the University of Missouri-Columbia assumed administrative responsibility for the university's statewide extension program.