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University of Nevada Cooperative Extension celebrates 100 years

Posted 5/5/2014

Historical photo: People on sitting on old car.

In 1914, Norma Davis became University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s first employee, teaching homemaking and 4-H youth education.

Gov. Sandoval issues proclamation; speaks of his experiences in Extension’s 4-H Program as a boy

If you’ve ever participated in 4-H or been given information by a Master Gardener, you’re one of hundreds of thousands of Nevadans for reason to celebrate this month. The organization that conducts these educational programs, and more than 130 others in communities across Nevada, is celebrating its centennial: University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has reason to celebrate. He participated in 4-H here in Nevada as a youth.

"The 4-H Program taught me responsibility, leadership and gave me lifelong skills," he said. "In fact, it was my participation in 4-H that led me to buy my very first car — a Volkswagen bug. My brother and I spent every morning feeding and tending to our lambs."

The Governor offered more remarks on his 4-H experience and Cooperative Extension in a taped message that is part of a short video posted on Cooperative Extension’s website at He has also proclaimed May 8, 2014 as University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Day in Nevada, and several county commissions across the state are also issuing similar proclamations.

May 8, 1914 is the day the Smith-Lever Act established the nationwide Cooperative Extension system to provide educational programs "to diffuse useful and practical information." In Nevada, the University of Nevada, Reno is the state’s land-grant institution, and as such, it accepted the duty of supporting Cooperative Extension’s programs to provide practical information to people, business and communities in all 17 Nevada counties.

The organization presents programs to address critical needs in agriculture; horticulture; community and economic development; natural resources; children, youth and families; and health and nutrition. Although it is a College of the University of Nevada, Reno, it is a county-state-federal partnership, with employees living and working throughout the state, assessing local community needs and bringing University research and knowledge, as well as resources from other partners, to address those needs.

"A big part of our success is being adaptable and being able to reach and serve diverse populations," Mark Walker, Dean of the College, explained. "We have a proud tradition of being the ’go-to guys’ in the small, rural communities like Elko and Caliente, but today, we are also very active in our large, urban centers — Las Vegas and Reno. We even have several programs that are now being used in other states or countries, such as the collaborative Living With Fire Program, founded and directed by our natural resources specialist Ed Smith.

Walker said that program has been adapted and put to use in 19 other states to help their residents live more safely with the threat of wildfire.

"Our role has definitely expanded through the years," Walker said. "We’re now doing things like experimenting with use of UAS, or drones, to help manage natural resources, and STEM has become a big emphasis in our 4-H programs, with things like 4-H Rocketry Clubs. In his message, Governor Sandoval said that our founders back in 1914 would be amazed at what Extension has become today. He is right. Extension has evolved in the past century to meet the very diverse needs of a complex society."

For more on University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s history in the state, go to

Did you know?

  • Youth who participate in 4-H are twice as likely to go to college and three times more likely to actively participate in their communities.
  • Nevada’s more than 615 active Master Gardeners, who receive intense training in plant-science skills, provide information to about 87,000 gardeners annually, and volunteer in more than 30 community gardens, teach workshops, and educate at farmers markets and schools.

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