One of the great stories in American education is the story of the development of Cooperative Extension work of Land Grant Colleges and Universities. On July 1, 1914, with the passage of the Smith Lever Act by Congress providing for Cooperative Extension work, the Agricultural Extension Service was organized in Arizona. The Act provides States with federal funds to carry on Extension work as agreed upon by the respective Land Grant Colleges and Universities and the federal government.
Prior to 1914, agricultural extension work consisted principally of institutes and agricultural demonstration trains, farmers short courses and a very limited amount of advisory service carried on by the Experiment Station staff. Farmers institutes were held as early as 1901 in Arizona. Beginning in 1905 the State Legislature made appropriations for agricultural Extension work, gradually increasing the amount at each subsequent session until 1914. In 1913 – 1914, twenty six cooperative demonstrations were undertaken in the state.
The first county farm adviser, A. L. Pashall, was named for Cochise and Santa Cruz Counties on December 16, 1914 on a half-time basis. After accepting the provisions of the Smith-Lever Act in 1915, the Legislature of the State of Arizona authorized the Board of Regents of the University of Arizona, the Land Grant University in Arizona, to "organize and conduct agricultural Extension work which shall be carried on in connection with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences of the University of Arizona in accordance with the terms and conditions expressed in the Act of Congress aforesaid". This State legislation also empowered county governments to appropriate funds for the county Extension program. Thus, cooperative funding of federal, state and county governments led to the name "Cooperative Extension". By March 1915 sufficient appropriations were secured so that our first county farm adviser, Mr. Pashall, could serve full time. In 1915 Stanley F. Morse was made state Leader of County Farm Advisory work in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture.
Cooperative Extension has always included youth development, consumer sciences and family development. Boys and girls club work (now called 4-H youth development) had its beginning in 1913, when Mr. George P. Peabody organized a boys cotton club in Chandler. In 1915 – 1916, 318 boys and girls demonstrations agreements were signed. By 1915 girls canning clubs were arousing interest. In 1915, a women's section was added to the third annual farmers short course held on the campus of the University of Arizona.
Since its nationalization under this Act, Cooperative Extension work has engaged faculty, students and community members throughout the country in educational activities aimed at developing the full range of people's contributions to the political, economic and cultural life of their communities, states and nation.
Two basic tenets of Cooperative Extension work have been supported through the years. First, Extension's mission is to "make science useful". Cooperative Extension believes in the potential value of science and research to improve peoples' lives. Second, Cooperative Extension is based on the needs of people in communities and counties. Extension work brings people together in local communities to solve local problems.
In 1921 the Legislature of the State of Arizona provided for the organization of County Farm Bureaus, which served as the official sponsoring body for Cooperative Extension work. This provision was later repealed and Extension Boards, appointed by the County Board of Supervisors, were established. Each County Extension Board consists of seven persons, who are residents of the county, four of whom have as their principal business the production of agricultural commodities, and the other three of whom are representative of organizations or persons who utilize the county Cooperative Extension.