Banner Image. One Hundred Years of Extension
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Establishment of the Extension Service

With the approval of the Oregon legislature on July 24, 1911, Board of Regents at Oregon Agricultural College formally organized the Oregon Extension Service.   R. D. Hetzel, an OAC professor of political science and law, served as Extension’s first director.  The program was established in response to requests from citizens of the state to receive assistance from the college.  The Federal Cooperative Extension Service was formally founded with the passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914.  The core of the Act was to establish an organization that would act as a vehicle to bring the “vast accumulation of results from scientific investigations that were not in general use in farm management operations” into common use on the farms of the United States.   Through a federal grant, which was to be matched at the state level, money was put in place to formally establish the Extension Service as a national organization.

Ralph Dorn Hetzel portrait
Portrait of R. D. Hetzel taken shortly after the establishment of the Oregon Extension Service.

The core of this program was to be county agents who worked collaboratively within communities, A youth education organization, The Boys and Girls Club (later renamed 4-H), brought motivated students together with community leaders.  And, traveling exhibits highlighted the latest in scientific innovations from electricity to fertilizers.  While The Oregon State University Extension program has expanded and reshaped its vision numerous times during its first 100 years, the central vision still remains the same.  Today, thousands of trained OSU Extension volunteers give time to their communities to create public gardens, advise woodland managers, and clean up neighborhood streams.  The 4-H program gives thousands of Oregon youth the opportunity to develop leadership skills and gain hands on experience in a wide range of agricultural and technical fields.  And, OSU Extension faculty across the state offer research-based expertise in health and nutrition, children and families, forestry, agriculture, marine science, and community development.

Extension agents in Eastern Oregon
Early extension agents in Eastern Oregon, 1915.