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Guest Column

Extension is the best-kept secret in Elbert County


Although we live in a fairly rural area, there are still people who don't know what Elbert County Extension is or what we have to offer citizens of the county! We've often been noted as "the best-kept secret in Elbert County." We don't want that title anymore!

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, extension's roots go back to agricultural clubs and societies, which sprang up in the early 1800s in the young United States.

The Smith Lever Act formalized extension in 1914, establishing USDA's partnership with land-grant universities to apply research and provide education in agriculture.

Congress created the extension system to address exclusively rural, agricultural issues. At that time, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas, and 30 percent of the workforce was engaged in farming.

Extension's engagement with rural America helped make possible the American agricultural revolution, which dramatically increased farm productivity, allowing fewer farmers to produce more food.

Over the last century, extension has adapted to changing times and landscapes. Fewer than 2 percent of Americans farm for a living today and only 17 percent of Americans now live in rural areas. Yet, the extension service still plays a significant role in American life - rural, urban, and suburban. With its unprecedented reach - an office in or near most of Colorado's 64 counties - extension agents help farmers and ranchers achieve greater success, assist families with nutrition and home economics, and prepare today's youth to become tomorrow's leaders. To reach an even wider audience, extension offers the eXtension website.

Locally you are served by a staff of four in the Elbert County Extension office at the fairgrounds in Kiowa. Support staff Lore Denson and Trena Smith assist director Sheila Kelley, who specializes in 4-H programming and volunteer management, and agricultural agent Kali Benson, whose program areas include 4-H livestock, natural resources, horticultural and livestock.

Programs we offer, usually either free or for a nominal fee, include 4-H Youth Development; Master Gardener and Master Food Safety programs; agricultural education; community development and much more.

Through this weekly column, you'll become familiar with the services we provide, upcoming educational classes and seminars, the Elbert County Fair, etc.

See why we don't want to be the best-kept secret? Let us help you become more educated in areas of your interests as we are the front door to Colorado State University. Our unbiased, researched information is meant to help our clientele become better citizens, stronger families, successful producers and more confident young people.

If you would like further information on what we offer, please contact the Elbert County Extension office at 303-621-3162. Our programming is a cooperative effort between CSU Extension and Elbert County government.

Sheila G. Kelley is the Colorado State University extension director for Elbert County. She can be reached at sheila.kelley@colostate.edu.

Sheila G. Kelley


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