At the turn of the previous century, growing concern over the quality of life for rural Americans prompted President Theodore Roosevelt to appoint a Commission on Country Life in 1908. One of the direct outcomes of the Commission’s recommendations was the passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914, which established a national extension service to place the knowledge generated at land-grant universities into the hands of farmers and rural citizens. The Agricultural Extension Service formalized and built upon existing efforts of land-grant universities to enhance the knowledge of farmers and apply scientific discoveries for improved agricultural practices. Beginning in 1913, the Agriculture Extension Service, later known as UC Cooperative Extension, placed farm advisors employed by the University of California in every county that formed a farm bureau and agreed to sponsor Extension Service work. In June 1914, the first representative from the U.C. Agricultural Cooperative Extension set up residence in San Joaquin County. The program grew over the next half century, not only in the size of its staff and breadth of services, but also in popularity and the extent of its involvement in rural San Joaquin County. Activities of the advisors included troubleshooting diseases of plants and animals, conducting information sessions, demonstrating new farming techniques, engaging in experiments, offering advice for housekeepers, educating young people, and sponsoring summer retreats. The program proved crucial during World Wars I and II for successful efforts to coordinate increased agricultural production as well as for its role in addressing labor shortages.
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