Cooperative Extension History

Cornell Cooperative Extension links the people of New York State with the knowledge and research of Cornell University and the national land-grant university system. Every county in the state has access to a local Extension office. In Orleans County, the Extension office is housed in the Education Center at the fairgrounds on State Route 31, west of Albion. The mission of Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension is to provide relevant, accessible, research-based information to grow confident youth and successful farms & gardens for a strong and healthy Orleans community. OCCCE facilitates the local 4-H Youth Development program, hosts a Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver Program, provides nutrition education, and assists farmers by supporting research and educational outreach.

The founding of what was to become Cornell Cooperative Extension began in the mid-1800s. In 1862, President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, which gave land to each state to sell to raise money to build a college for agriculture and mechanic arts. The colleges established with these funds were, and still are, known as land-grant universities. In New York State, our land-grant is Cornell University

In 1906, Liberty Hyde Bailey was dean of the NYS College of Agriculture at Cornell University. He helped organize Extension to “furnish the farmers of the county (1) means of collective action, (2) local machinery for carrying on Extension work, (3) organized local direction and support for such work, and (4) a local clearing house for all activities and organizations promoting agriculture and county life…” Eight years later, passage of the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 formalized the national Cooperative Extension System, which made the land-grant university of each state responsible for sharing (aka “extending”) its knowledge with the people through educational outreach.

In 1917, the farming families of Orleans County organized a County Farm Bureau Association, which later became Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension. As written in the first issue of the Orleans County “Farm Bureau News” dated April 1917, “extension is a partnership between science and practice; science as represented by the State College of Agriculture and State-Federal Departments of Agriculture and practice and experience as represented by the farmers of Orleans County”.

A year later, the Home Bureau was accepted as a partner in the County Association to provide a means through which all homemakers could pool their practical experience with mutual benefit to all. Some of the first Home Bureau projects included labor-saving devices, thrift campaigns, canning, cooperative buying, dyeing, health work, and Fair exhibits. The Home Bureau also took an active role in bettering community libraries, schools, and recreational opportunities, and supporting community centers and other community enterprises to improve the quality of life. 4-H Clubs became part of Extension work in Orleans County in 1937 to provide learning and development opportunities for youth.

Orleans County Farm Bureau and Extension were all-in-one from 1917 until 1956, when the two amicably separated. Farm Bureau branched into promoting legislative advancements and services for farmers. Extension continued serving as a catalyst for change through education, bringing new ideas and improved practices for farms and homes in Orleans County.

In 1968, after 50 years of the Extension work, the community remained optimistic. “We believe that as Orleans County Extension moves into Reorganization in 1968 under its new name – “The Cooperative Extension Association of Orleans County” the three divisions, Agriculture, Home Economics and 4-H will progress in their endeavor to reach more families. Some programs will directly help individuals and families to meet the complex demands of today’s living, while others will reach them by providing information to agencies, organizations, and firms whose programs, services, and products aid in personal development and provide desirable goods and services.” Today, that sentiment continues.

After 99 years of Extension work, Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension continues to look to the future. Forward thinking built the Education Center at the fairgrounds, which houses the county Extension office, a diagnostic lab for identifying pests and plant disease and testing fruit ripeness, and modern classroom spaces for meetings, educational workshops, and community events. It facilitated the establishment of regional agriculture teams, staffed with specialists to conduct research and offer support services to local growers. It also was part of one of the first Shared Business Networks in the state to generate cost savings in partnership with other county Extension offices.

Last updated December 20, 2021