Conservation began in Cooper County 100 years ago
One hundred years ago 10 counties in Missouri were selected to have a Farm Advisor. Cooper County was one of the 10. On Saturday, a celebration of the 100th year occurred at the Cooper County Extension Office located off of Jackson Road.
Cooper County Associate Extension Program and Horticulture/Agronomy Specialist and Cooper County West Central Program Director, Todd Lorenz said early efforts in extension were directed towards agriculture.
“In these pioneering efforts towards extension, Missouri farmers had the cooperation and support from Missouri Bankers Association, the Federation of Missouri, Commercial Clubs, the State Grange, various farmers’ organizations and local clubs,” Lorenz said.
Lorenz said J.D. Wilson was Cooper County’s first 'farm adviser' from the University of Missouri College of Agriculture prior to the Smith Lever Act, a 1914 United States federal law that established a system of cooperative extension services.
" One of his main activities was to assist farmers with an epidemic of hog cholera, which threatened to destroy swine herds throughout Missouri,” Lorenz said.
He said during World War I, Extension nationwide helped increase wheat production from 47 million acres to 74 million acres in support of wartime needs.
Furthermore, during the Great Depression much of the activity of the office included assisting with government relief programs.
“Another major area of concern was the loss of topsoil that was occurring throughout the county. Mortan Tuttle, a prominent young farmer near Prairie Home was one of the first farmers to work with Extension in terracing his land. Cooper County was one of the pioneer counties in the nation in installing conservation practices,” Lorenz said.
It only took a few decades to establish 4H and Extension Homemakers clubs in the county.
“The formation of the Co-Mo Electric Cooperative actually started 1938 with Paul Doll who was the Cooper County Extension Agent. Doll did the planning and legwork and made political connections to form the independent cooperative,” he said.
He said during World War II Extension service helped farm families maintain the agricultural production needed for the war effort. Extension also assisted veterans as they returned to agricultural production after the war.
“The Home Economics Agent assisted in dealing with the many hardships and scarcities that the war brought. During the wartime efforts, Extension agents developed programs to provide seed, fertilizer and tools for Victory Gardeners. Around 15 million families planted gardens and by 1943, those gardens produced more than 40 percent of vegetables for that year’s fresh consumption,” Lorenz said.