April 9, 2006 - A tip of the hat to Extension people

Ever since my 4-H days in Wisconsin, I have had the highest regard for people who work in the Cooperative Extension Service. I didn't call it that then and didn't even know there was such a government agency. I simply knew that the County 4-H Agent was very nice and very helpful in developing project skills and leadership skills in young farm kids.

In my case, he gave me the confidence to stand in front of a group of people and speak and I could never have dreamed that would lead to a lifelong career of speaking on TV and radio as well as in front of large audiences. In addition, I also need to give a great deal of credit to my FFA Advisor for his encouragement. Without that encouragement and confidence, I sometimes wonder how different my life would be today.

As I moved into agricultural broadcasting, Extension people became a main source of knowledge and helpful information to share with my farm and consumer audience and that continues today. When I moved to Chicago in 1960, I was surprised to find there were active 4-H Clubs in the inner city with a total membership of 2,200 young people learning the same skills and confidence that I learned on the farm from Extension people.

From that point on I have watched the work of Extension people change from just "cows and pigs" to life skills working with people all the way from 4-H to senior citizens in the city as well as the country. That says to me that Extension has an ever-increasing role in the lives of all of us and deserves the financial support of all taxpayers.

I have also witnessed another change. Back in the 90's, severe cuts in federal funding of the Cooperative Extension Service took a major toll on programs and staffs across the nation. That transferred  more of the financial burden to state and county budgets and that's when concerned supporters formed state groups like Extension Partners in Illinois to generate interest and financial support at all levels in the state. Despite ever-increasing budget demands, they have enjoyed moderate success.

I have traveled to 43 countries and in those countries that do not have an Extension program, that is one of their first goals...to establish an Extension Service modeled after ours. I so firmly believe in the work of Extension people who are well qualified for what they do and who truly care about people, young and old. I'm convinced they personally communicate with more people across the country than any other government agency. They deserve our support on the farm and in the city!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.