Extended extension post
September 18, 2007 8:20 PM   Subscribe

The Cooperative Extension Service, founded in 1914 in the US by the Smith-Lever Act, was established in concert with the land-grant universities to develop practical applications of agricultural research, and spread them to farmers and others throughout the country. As part of this education program, the extension programs have produced and collected an extraordinary amount of practical advice, easily accessible to the layman...

As it supports the farming community, much of this information concerns things important mostly to farmers: crop and livestock information, pest control, diseases. A lot of the publications also concern issues in people's personal lives: dealing with money, proper nutrition, food safety, overcoming hardship. There are plenty of articles useful for gardeners and cooks, and plenty of unusual topics to interest the curious.

Below are some of the more interesting/useful ones I've found.

(Warning: many PDF files below.)

Raising alligators
Raising all sorts of fish, including tropical ones
Raising chickens at home for eggs
Raising bees
Raising pheasants

Growing shiitake mushrooms
Growing Christmas trees
Growing rhubarb
Growing coffee (hint: live in Hawaii)
Growing citrus trees (you should start here)
Growing pretty much every other kind of fruit
Growing chile peppers
Growing hydroponic tomatoes
Growing herbs

Making maple syrup (especially this one)
Pressing your own apple cider
Drying corn for Plains Indian dishes
Cleaning and preparing a deer
Practicing the art of sausage-making (with recipes!)
Organizing a Southern barbecue (also with recipes)
Curing a Virginia ham
Making pickles and sauerkraut
Making your own wine
Canning fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, salsas, etc.
Drying fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, and seeds
Smoking poultry and fish
Deep-fat-frying your Thanksgiving turkey
Making your own jams and jellies (with or without cooking them)
Cooking ferns and other wild greens
Making fruit syrup
Making homemade cheese
Making homemade yogurt

Starting a worm farm
Composting correctly
Making hay
Controlling your beavers
Building a root cellar
Building a greenhouse (with a few additional considerations)
Building bird and bat houses
Harvesting wood (and how to use a chainsaw)
Refinishing wood furniture
Making clothes
Creaing bonsai

You can find links to nearby extensions here; Wikipedia also has a list.
posted by Upton O'Good (12 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Growing herbs: 426-420.pdf

lol federal government
posted by Avenger at 8:23 PM on September 18, 2007

When I was growing organic peaches and apples the local eextension office was a great resource. You go guys!
posted by pointilist at 8:34 PM on September 18, 2007

deodorizing refrigerator

the activated charcoal tip worked for a fridge that i almost threw away.
posted by TrialByMedia at 8:39 PM on September 18, 2007

Interesting that in 1914 the government was looking to increase people's productive skills. Nowadays they seem too worried that anyone with productive skills will make meth, grow pot, or make fireworks. Grow hydroponic tomatoes? (I find it telling that these are all on .edu sites, under the radar so to speak.)

Directly related to the post, can I only find indices of publications by going to the individual university extension program websites? Sort of inconvenient, although there's a wealth of information just at my school's.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:53 PM on September 18, 2007

They're a great resource for so many things. They won't cut your trees down for you, but they can usually give you an idea what might be wrong with one and how you can get it healthy again, or what might be eating your vegetables or lawn.

Basically, agriculture was still the leading industry in the nation, and it was all run by all these family-sized small businesses. So providing them with a free laboratory and research arm made sense. (Kinda socialist, if you ask me.)

The extension services are also the basis of the 4-H Clubs. My county has the oldest 4-H fair, which long ago merged with the county fair.[pics]
posted by dhartung at 8:56 PM on September 18, 2007

NC State University has a nice online exhibition of the history of Home Demonstration and 4-H Youth Development in North Carolina.
posted by marxchivist at 9:28 PM on September 18, 2007

My mother was a county extension agent for a while. In addition to the pamphlets, their mandate also smuggles in a fair amount of help for the rural poor - mom did a lot of criss-crossing the Ozarks with the EFNEP program, teaching people to cook on a food-stamp budget.

There's also women's health programs, they offer employment help - they're basically one of those tucked-away, under-funded agencies that's trying to keep rural America above water.

Mom also stuck young me into 4-H, long enough to know that the domestic chicken and I will never, ever, be friends
posted by ormondsacker at 9:49 PM on September 18, 2007

as my father tells the story, he overstayed his welcome at the county extension office in upstate ny one day with back-to-the-land enthusiasm, grabbing every topsoil map and planting calendar he could find and asking a lot of questions about his new property.

the next day he noticed truck tracks up and back from the road to his pond's edge. the day after that he noticed a new pair of beavers.

it was as if there was an extension guide to relocating beavers that were flooding working corn fields: give them to the city slicker, he'll probably be delighted. *tail slap!*
posted by ioesf at 12:21 AM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Our friendly county extension office helped us select a pasture mix of local grasses to match our soils, rainfall, and altitude. Now our lot is au naturelle, and only gets mowed once a year (whether it needs it or not). Wildflowers are gradually moving in, too.

A very helpful resource, and government dollars well spent. An army of extension agents sent abroad might win us far more friends than bombs and bullets.
posted by cenoxo at 12:47 AM on September 19, 2007

In fact, thousands of people have found that satisfactory [ smoked meats | wine | opium | explosives | insurrections ] can be prepared at home using easily obtainable materials.

Always a fan of the extension groups.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:20 AM on September 19, 2007

Great links! Best of the Web! My wife works for the Master Gardener Program out of the county Extension office.
posted by RussHy at 5:39 AM on September 19, 2007

When I was wee youngin' and growing up in Central New York, I didn't realize that there was actually more to "Cornell" beyond the Cooperative Extension for quite awhile.
posted by stefnet at 5:11 PM on September 19, 2007

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