A Tradition of Innovation
For more than 85 years, University of Missouri Extension has been an
innovator in helping people make their lives better.
Extension agents helped citizens organize non-profit cooperatives that
were authorized to construct electricity generating plants and transmission
and distribution lines, funded by the Rural Electrification Act of 1936.
Rural Telephones and Library Districts
In some counties, extension personnel assisted citizens in forming rural
telephone companies and library districts.
Hot Lunch for Rural School Children
Extension home economists organized volunteers in the late ‘30s and
early ‘40s, who cooked soups and nutritious meals at home and brought them
to rural schools where they were warmed on pot-bellied stoves and served to
Technical planning for on-farm soil conservation practices, including
waterway layout, terracing and no-till cropping evolved from the partnership
of extension agents and Soil and Water Conservation Districts, beginning in
the 1930s and continuing to the present.
Families, beginning in the 1940s and continuing through the 1960s, paid
a membership fee to be enrolled in a program to improve farm and home
business skills and incomes.
Non-Traditional Extension Programs
Missouri was the first land-grant university in the nation to make field
faculty available to citizens at county extension centers in non-traditional
disciplines—continuing education, community development, engineering, and business
and industry—in addition to the well-known areas of agriculture, home
economics and 4-H.
Early Childhood Education
In many locales, extension was the first administrator of the Head Start
program—responsible for hiring, training and supervising employees
working with children in Head Start centers.
War on Poverty
In the early ‘60s, Missouri extension became involved in the War on
Poverty by being the first state in the nation to organize community action
agencies, which reflected the racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of
the local populations. Missouri extension also was among the first states to
hire local citizens without degrees to serve as paraprofessionals to
deliver educational programs in nutrition, youth development, agriculture
and gardening. This practice continues today.
Extension played a primary role in involving the university in
urban problem-solving. In 1967, the Extension Division began offering
non-credit programs for St. Louis area businesses and credit courses for
teachers. Nursing courses in local hospitals followed. Extension also was instrumental in establishing degree programs in early childhood
education, administration of justice, gerontology, optometry and community
education. In 1976, extension and the political science department
established the Asian Resource Office to promote greater understanding of
Asian cultures and history. UMSL campus extension continues to be a strong
advocate for establishment of academic programs to meet the needs of
residents in the metropolitan area.
In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, under a National Endowment for the
Humanities initiative, extension brought the fine arts to out-state
Missouri. Professors and performers taught art, theater, music, literature and
dance in schools and community
centers. For many Missourians, this was their first exposure to the arts.
In the mid-1970s, extension home economists administered developmental
screening tests to preschool-aged children, assisted by extension homemaker
club members, Retired Senior Volunteer participants, church women’s groups,
PTAs and others. This activity was taken over by the Parents as Teachers
Programs for African-American and Underserved Audiences
In 1972, Missouri became the first state to offer educational programs
under a cooperative agreement between two land-grant institutions—the
University of Missouri and Lincoln University. Citizens continue to benefit
from agriculture, nutrition, horticulture, 4-H youth and
community development programs.
The St. Louis Storytelling Festival, begun in 1980, brings storytellers
from around the world to the Gateway Arch and area schools to pass on the
oral tradition. The UM-St. Louis College of Arts and Sciences continuing
education-extension sponsors the four-day festival.
Independent Studies via Computer
In 1974, the UM Center for Independent Study initiated a computerized
lesson grading system—the first of its kind in the nation. High school
students review lessons and study for exams electronically. Now independent
study students also take courses via the Internet.
After-school Child Care
Begun in 1987, the 4-H Adventure Club was established as a national
model for after-school study and care of elementary school children. Now,
15 clubs serve 525 children. In addition, Missouri 4-H, as part of a USDA
project, provides assistance to the U.S. Army on school-age and teen
programs around the world.
Career Transition Skills
The Career Options/Dislocated Worker program begun in 1987 helped 7,689
adults in 293 communities obtain job-search and career transition skills.
The Worker Reentry/Career Information Hotline fielded 22,214 calls.
The first school on crop inspection for pests took place in Southeast
Missouri. Missouri now has the most comprehensive crop scouting school in
the nation, held at the Delta Center near Portageville each spring.
Missouri Arts and Crafts
The Best of Missouri Hands catalog, first published in 1986, and related
seminars helped Missouri artisans market their crafts. After successfully
initiating Missouri Hands, University Extension turned the project over to a
non-profit organization, Missouri Artisans Business Development Association,
which still publishes the catalog.
On-site Septic Systems
Soil percolation testing in 1996 and other programs for homeowners,
Realtors, lenders and contractors to help them deal with state regulations
concerning household waste were instituted in Missouri. A demonstration
center for on-site systems is open to the public at the Bradford Farms
Research Center near Columbia.
In 1993, the first Telecommunication Community Resource Center opened in
Poplar Bluff. This was the first University-community partnership in the
state to provide educational programming via interactive video, satellite
and Internet communication to citizens where they live and work.
The nation’s first Internet training for solid waste planners,
government and health officials, educators and others interested in
protecting homes and communities from household hazardous wastes came on
line in 1998.
The Labor Studies Certificate Program—the first course offered
cooperatively by the UMC, UMKC and UMSL campuses for union leaders,
representatives and activists—is taking place today via the UM Video