homepage logo

Celebrating 100 years

By Staff | May 19, 2017

Darcie Kramer, Kossuth County youth educator and office manager, and Jean Kent, former 4-H and youth coordinator, look back at the history of the Kossuth County Extension recently. The Kossuth County Extension office will be celebrating their 100 year anniversary throughout the summer at a variety of events.



ALGONA – The county offices of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach are in the middle of a seven-year span to celebrate 100 years of service.

The offices began celebrating in 2012 and it will continue to 2019.

Kossuth County Extension is one of the several counties that have reached that milestone in 2017.

Darcie Kramer, Kossuth County youth educator and office manager, said Kossuth County Extension will be celebrating its 100th anniversary all year long.

It officially kicked off in April during Extension Week.

“We are planning a celebration in the fall, in addition to smaller events that will be held throughout the summer,” said Kramer.

John Ley is past Kossuth County Extension director, serving the county from a span from 1968 to 1996.

Prior to his tenure at Kossuth County Extension, Ley served as the Guthrie County Extension director for five years.

“I came on at an interesting time,” he said. “There was continuous change in technology through those years that was happening faster than we realized at the time.”

Extension, Ley said, has always tried to keep with the times, and still tried to be two to three years ahead in order to serve the public.

“With my time spent in agriculture, I got to see some terrific change,” Ley said.

He added his time with Extension brought experiences with aiding the public in all sorts of ups and downs.

As Kossuth County Extension director in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Ley said it was a time for growth in that area.

“Kossuth County was a heavy livestock county with large cattle and hog farms,” he said. “Sons were coming back to the farm to join their fathers and, instead of increasing acres, were able to increase their livestock numbers.”

“It became a home and a source of employment for them during that time of incredible growth.”

During those times, Ley said Kossuth County Extension area specialists and employees were assisting producers with their businesses through on-farm visits and other outreach efforts.

Those booming times, he said, lasted throughout the 1970s before the farm crisis hit in the early 1980s.

“That was a very difficult time,” he said. “Everything you had on your farm dropped in value. Land values dropped significantly in a short period of a few years by $1,000 an acre. Producers couldn’t recover right away and we lost a lot of our middle-aged farmers and farm families.”

Extension was an integral part of helping producers and other agricultural businesses during that time as well.

“We worked with farm families, lenders, attorneys. People were trying to hold on to what they had,” said Ley. “It was difficult to maintain an operation. We had Extension specialists that would work with them.”

That particular time also brought more technology to Extension in the form of computers.

Ley said he recalls Extension specialists using computers back then to help figure out different scenarios and providing them with information to assist them in anyway they could.

“Bottom line, the time I was with Extension, we had to try to be available with what was needed at any given time.”


Ley said Extension has changed and evolved over the years, but remains a service to the public.

Originally starting with a focus on home economics and agriculture, Ley said Extension has expanded tremendously.

“The audience has changed, but its need and purpose for unbiased information is still there.”

Jean Kent, who served as 4-H and youth coordinator at Kossuth County Extension from 1980 to 2013, said the biggest change she has witnessed through her time at Extension is the enrollment in the 4-H program.

“We had our highest enrollment in the 1970s and now we are significantly smaller,” she said. “We lost a lot of farms through poor farm economies, we lost a lot of kids. The dynamics have changed.”

Kent said there has also been a major change in subjects taught, including cooking and caring for the home.

Although those skills are still taught, topics have evolved to include topics such as women in marketing.

The benefits of being able to help educate the public are still a part of Extension to Kent.

“They are there to help answer a variety of questions and people may not realize they are there,” she said.

Faye Schulter, adult educator with Kossuth County Extension, said some of the biggest changes she believes Extension has been through is where the education offerings are held.

“Extension started out where we would go in to homes, educate that way, and into the fields, into the barns,” Schulter said. “We took the information to the people.”

“There has been a definite shift in learning opportunities.”

Mel Haler, of Wesley, member of the Kossuth County Fair Board and a 4-H club leader, said although times have changed to where there isn’t as much of an emphasis with 4-H on the farm like there used to be when he was younger, Extension is still a great outlet for a variety of information.

“Everything has gone forward,” he said. “But, if you have a question, and if they can’t answer it here, they will find an answer for you. Extension is still an excellent source of information.”

Everyone agreed technology has been one of the biggest factors that have changed the course for Extension.

“Technology has definitely changed how we do business,” said Kramer. “Extension has evolved with the times to assist the public and we have to adjust to keep up and we adapt to teach to the public’s needs.”


4-H is one of the primary programs at Kossuth County Extension.

Kent said the first 4-H clubs started in the county in 1918.

“A dairy club was the first club started just shortly after the Extension started,” said Kent. “Then there was a canning club.”

According to history provided by the Kossuth County Extension office, in 1918, the total membership in 4-H was 57 boys and girls that made up the 4-H clubs in the county.

In 1920, purebred pig, dairy calf and purebred dairy heifer clubs were organized. The original intent of these agricultural clubs, according to the information provided, was that they would function for one or two years with new clubs to be organized each year.

However, the 1921 report stated, “The (grade dairy) calf club at Titonka seems to be almost a permanent institution.”

Extension Service: A Historical Perspective, courtesy of Iowa State Extension and Outreach


Iowa’s Cooperative Extension Service provides the link by which the results of research conducted at Iowa’s Land Grant University are made available to those who have use for the information.

By the mid-1800s. a movement was well underway to create colleges for the education of the “sons and daughters of the working classes.” This movement resulted in legislation in 1862 creating the Land Grant College System. Iowa was the first state to accept the provisions of the law for its frontier college in Ames, Iowa. The original legislation made an annual allocation of funds to support the colleges, provided funding for colleges for black students, and made the system available to new states joining the union.

Because of the strong agricultural orientation of the United States, agriculture was one of the main courses of study at the newly-established people’s colleges. Quickly it became evident that a scientific research capability was needed at the colleges. This need grew and in 1887 Congress passed legislation providing funds for the states to create agricultural research stations. The stage was set for the creation of the Extension Service.

A number of states, including, Iowa, had attempted various methods to encourage farmers to adopt new farming methods and techniques. In many cases, these extension-type efforts depended on the interest of a particular college instructor, an inquiry from a particular group of people or some sort of crisis. In 1914 Congress enacted the Smith-Lever Act creating the Extension Service. It was to be a partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture and the states. Funds were made available to each state if the state provided matching funds.

Extension Service: The Iowa Scene (Courtesy of Iowa State Extension and Outreach)

As Iowa was a leader in the Land Grant College movement, so also has Iowa provided leadership to the extension movement. About as early as students started attending classes at the frontier campus in Ames, informal educational activities were being taken off campus. In 1869, for example, a farmers’ short course was conducted in Black Hawk County. In 1903, the first county-wide farm demonstration was established in Sioux County. The demonstration was established at the request of local farmers, and received support from the state and federal governments through Iowa’s Land Grant College. In 1906, the Iowa Legislature enacted the Agricultural Extension Act making funds available for demonstration projects. It is believed this was the first specific legislation establishing state extension work.

By 1912, the need for full-time extension agents was becoming apparent. In response, the legislature enacted the Farm Aid Association Act in 1913. The law permitted and later required, each county to appropriate funds for county extension work. The bill required each county to have a local sponsor and the county Farm Bureau filled that role. When the Smith-Lever Act was passed by Congress in 1914, Iowa was ready to accept the provisions and benefits of the new law. By 1918, each Iowa county had a county extension worker in place. Staff positions were soon developed to provide leadership for home economics and 4-H program efforts.

The legal framework for extension remained relatively unchanged from 1914 until 1955. At that time, the current County Agricultural Extension Law was enacted by the Iowa Legislature. This law created the county extension councils as the local governing boards replacing the local Farm Bureau boards and established a local tax to support extension efforts. In 1990, the law was amended to significantly change the council election process. Specifically the size of the county extension councils was set at nine members to be elected at-large as a part of the general election.

Through the years, a set of principles has developed to provide overall guidance for extension work:

– The function of the Extension Service is to make the knowledge base of the Land Grant University available to the people of the state.

– Extension programs are directed to improve the lives of people through education.

– The responsibility of identifying, planning and directing a program based on the needs of people is shared with the local elected council.

– The legal framework for Extension provides stability but also flexibility, which enhances local program initiatives.

– The partnership concept upon which Extension is based requires continual nurturing.

Source: “Cooperative Extension Work in Iowa and Provisions of the County Extension Law” Iowa State University Extension Publication I (RMA)1/revised September 1991

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page