The Anson County Cooperative Extension Service held a birthday celebration on Thursday afternoon that featured cake and punch — and the unveiling of an architectural rendering of the new agri-civic center, which is currently planned for completion by 2018.
The architectural rendering was posted on a sign that will be placed at the site of the new agri-civic center on U.S. 74 East in Wadesboro.
Before unveiling the sign, Cooperative Extension director Janine Rywak gave those present a brief history of the Cooperative Extension Service. “The way that Extension came about,” she explained, “in the 1700s, there were no schools or colleges dedicated to farming. Most farming was done one row at a time, behind a mule. But our forefathers decided to create a better way of life.”
It took nearly 100 years, however, for those ideals to include agriculture. In 1856, Rywak said, Justin Morrill of Vermont was elected to Congress and he introduced a bill to create colleges focused on agriculture, similar to military schools like West Point. Morrill’s bill was defeated, but he continued to press for a similar bill until it was finally approved by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862.
However, at that time, the South had seceded from the United States, so North Carolina was not included in the bill.
It wasn’t until 1867 that North Carolina established an agriculture-based university, Rywak said. “Farm leaders were not satisfied with the courses offered, and fought for the establishment of a new institution,” she said. “Anson County’s own Leonidas Lafayette Polk, the state’s first Commissioner of Agriculture, was instrumental in this movement.”
In 1887, the Agricultural and Mechanical College was established in Raleigh. Today, that college is N.C. State University.
Between 1905 and 1909, Rywak said, many states began organizing Extension services. In 1908, Anson County hired Dr. W.J McLendon to provide agricultural education to farmers in the county through demonstration work. A year later, more employees were added, due to public demand: J.T. Martin, E.C. Griggs, C.A. Winfree, E.L. Huntley and J.D. MacGregor were hired to work in different regions of the county. Two more instrumental people in Anson County’s Extension history were hired — in 1911, J.W. Cameron, who would serve as the County Agent in Anson until his death in 1952, and in 1913, Rosalind Redfearn, daughter of Dr. W.J. McLendon.
Finally, in a national conference between the representatives of the agricultural colleges, the Secretary of Agriculture, Senator Hoke Smith of Georgia and Representative Asbury Lever of South Carolina led to a new form of the Smith-Lever Extension Bill. “The new bill provided that there would be active cooperation between the colleges and the Department of Agriculture,” Rywak said. “It was also agreed that the funding allocation to the states would be on the basis of their population of rural areas. The legislatures of each state were given the authority to designate which land-grant institution would receive the benefits of the act. It had been an uphill battle for 60 years, but finally the federal policy for teaching, research and Extension in agriculture and home economics became the national policy.”
As for the new agri-civic center, Rywak said right now, it is planned to be completed in 2018. In addition to housing Cooperative Extension Services and the Brown Creek Soil and Water Conservation, the facility will include a conference center that Rywak said “the county will be able to utilize for many years to come.”