This week, March 21-26, Iowa State University Extension is celebrating Extension Week. Check out their website for activities taking place on campus and throughout the state, such as here in Story County.
Perry Holden in the fields at Iowa State in 1905, one year before he was appointed first director of the Agricultural and Home Economics Extension Service
The Extension Service first began here at Iowa State, even before a national extension program was established. As a land grant college, one of Iowa State’s founding principles was that higher education should be accessible to all. In the 19th and early 20th century, the Extension Service grew out of early activities such as Iowa State’s short courses for farmers and Perry Holden’s corn train. These were created from the need and desire to bring the ideas and research here at Iowa State out to the citizens of Iowa.
In 1906 the Iowa General Assembly appropriated funds to create a Department of Extension at Iowa State College. The National Cooperative Extension Program was a result of the Smith-Lever Act (passed in 1914), which brought together the federal government, the states, and participating county governments as partners in a three-tiered organization to serve the nation’s farm population.
Holden presenting during one of his corn train classes in a train’s passenger car. Holden’s short courses on corn were so popular that he decided to bring the course to farmers instead of having them flock to the Iowa State campus – and he did this on trains, nonetheless!
To learn more about the history of the Extension Service, take a look at a video we recently uploaded to our YouTube channel. The video, Extension Heritage: Commemorating 50 Years of Extension Work in Iowa, was made in 1956 to celebrate Extension’s 50 year anniversary. The video includes reminiscences of one of the founders of the Extension Service, Iowa State Professor Perry Holden.
Holden laid the groundwork for the Extension Service (first called the Agricultural and Home Economics Extension Service), and was appointed its first director in 1906. In the video, Holden tells about giving 50 speeches in 3 days on his “corn train.” Holden also reminisces about these courses with a reverend who was on one of the trains on which Holden spoke. Among a variety of other topics, they discuss early extension work and past and future problems agriculture would face.
The video was made in a different documentary style than we may be used to now, but it contains interesting conversations and bits of history throughout:
We have a variety of collections here at Iowa State documenting the history of Extension, such as the Iowa State University Extension Service Records. Other Extension related records and papers are listed here on our website. The collections listed include our Perry G. Holden Papers.