The Cooperative Extension Service was created on May 8, 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act, legislation coauthored by South Carolina congressman Asbury F. Lever. The act ended the rivalry between state agriculture commissioners and land grant colleges over the administration of extension work. In its place, Smith-Lever created a partnership of federal, state, and local governments that worked to improve the quality of rural life by disseminating the latest information to farmers, homemakers, and communities. The South Carolina General Assembly accepted Smith-Lever by a joint resolution approved by the governor on February 12, 1915, which designated the Clemson Agricultural and Mechanical College as the state agency for agricultural extension work. The first efforts in South Carolina actually took place in 1906 with support from the federal government, the General Education Board of the Rockefeller Foundation, and by the state through Clemson. In 1907 Seaman Knapp, head of extension work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), came to South Carolina and appointed two district agents and five county agents. W. W. Long who came to Clemson from the USDA in 1913 to head up extension work, was the first director under the Smith-Lever Act. Along with Edith Parrott, state home demonstration agent, Long built Cooperative Extension Service work around a nucleus of workers appointed during the previous seven years. Agents relied heavily on teaching techniques developed by Knapp, who came to be known as the father of agricultural demonstration work. He believed that a demonstration farm using Cooperative Extension Service recommendations would persuade others to follow the same practices.
Under the same philosophy, the Cooperative Extension Service evolved as the public’s information needs changed. By the start of the twenty-first century, efforts focused more on families and youth, while still maintaining a strong agricultural base and its traditional emphasis on economic and community development, environmental issues, food safety, and nutrition. Clemson’s Cooperative Extension Service sponsors the 4–H program, which reaches more than 104,000 South Carolina youths through school and community programs, special-interest clubs, and camping. Offices are located in all forty-six counties, staffed by 165 county agents plus support personnel and backed by seventy specialists stationed on the Clemson University campus and at Research and Education Centers at Charleston, Blackville, Florence, and in Richland County. Staff members are trained in disciplines such as agronomy, animal science, entomology, forestry, plant pathology, economics, and food and nutrition. Personnel serve as an unbiased source of information for families, agricultural and forestry producers, and food industry professionals, much of it developed at Clemson’s South Carolina Agriculture and Forestry Research System.
Woodall, Clyde E. The History of South Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Clemson, S.C., 1998.