County Agents and Home Demonstration Agents. 1915

Material Information

County Agents and Home Demonstration Agents. 1915
Series Title:
Writings and Speeches 1891-1920
True, A. C.
Rolfs, Peter Henry
Publication Date:
Physical Location:
Articles, Speeches and Other Writings
78. County Agents and Home Demonstration Agents. 1915


Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural extension work -- Florida.
Florida Cooperative Extension Service.
True, A. C.


An address given by Dr. A. C. True, Director of States Relations Service, at the annual convention of State Leaders and State Agents in County Agent Work held at St. Louis, Mo., November 16-19, 1915 discussing the work of the county agents.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida Archives
Rights Management:
Copyright Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier:

UFDC Membership

Peter Henry Rolfs
University Archives

Full Text

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Director of States Relations Service,

At the Annual Convention of State Leaders and State Agents in County Agent Work
Held at St. Louis, Mo., Nov. 16-19, 1915,

This has been a great year in the history of the agricultural colleges and

the Department of Agriculture because of the permanent nature of the work which

we are now undertaking, in organizing a system of agricultural extension work for

all the United States. In doing this we have been building on the foundations

already laid, and the great part of the work in which we all have been engaged

has been the adjusting of relations of workers and of the different phases of work

which have previously been going on, and the bringing together of all the agencies

for agricultural extension work to form a unified system in the several States,

and a nation-wide system, taken as a whole.

We.have met to consider especially the interests of the County Agent work,

and I take it that we all think that is a matter of "sufficient importance to jus-

tify our bringing together the Leaders in that work from practically all the

States of our Union. In extent, the County Agent work is bulking very large in

this extension system. About $5,000,000 will be spent during this fiscal year for

extension work in agriculture and home economics in the United States. Of that

amount, approximately one-half, or $2,500,CC00, will be spent on the County Agent

work. To put that in another way, if this was an endowed system, and its funds

were so invested that they drew 5 per cent, we should need an endowment of

$50, 000,000 to support the*County Agent work in the United Stat .-. thisc year. A

business of that size certainly cser.vcs very careful attention on ,he part of

those who are responsible for its management, and that leads ne to hni t-i":t, the

position of State Leader of County Agents in this a one.,

The County Agent, himself, is a fundamental factor of the system. This seems

to have been generally recognized throughout the country, because everywhere the

extension system seems to be based on the County Agent. If this is so, certainly

the men who are to supervise and, in a proper sense, manage the County Agents, oc-

cupy a very important position.

/ It has seemed to me that the State Leader has at least the following functions:

He should, in a large sense, be a good org:-iz.r, because he has not only to manage

the work which is going on in counties already or',a n-ed, but to have an important

part in seeking new fields and organizing new counties. He must also be a super-

visor of the work of others, and that means that he must have those peculiar quali-

ties which will lead him to be a good judge of men,. in the first place, and then a

fair and sympathetic judge of the work which the men associated with him are doing.

He is, in an important way, a connecting link between the County Agents and the

force of extension workers whose headquarters are at the College or in the Depart-

ment of Agriculture, and that means that he must not only be able to understand the

county Agent work but also to be in full sympathy with, and to comprehend the work

of the extension specialists and administrative officers connected with the College

and the Department in this broad enterprise, because while the County Agent work

is-:the largest single factor in this extension enterprise, there are a number of

other very important elements which must not at any time be left out of accounts

He is also, in some large sense, to be eyes and ears for the Extension Director of

the State, because we must never forget that the State Leader is under the immediate

direction of the Extension Director and responsible to him for his work. That

means, of course, that he must come in close touch with the Extension Director. He

.must endeavor to have the most cordial relations with him. He must be'so in the

confidence of the Extension Director that the two men can deal frankly and fully

with each other, on all matters relating to the work.


We are trying to build up a unified system of extension work in the several

States, under the general direction of the agricultural college of the State,and

it is absolutely essential to the highest success of this work that the different

parts of this system shall be closely knit together and shall work in harmony and

unison all the time.

The State Leaders, as well as other officers connected with the extension

service, have certain relations to the U. S. Department of Agriculture under the

system of extension work which we "are developing in this country. Those relations

are determined in the several States by the project agreements between the Exten-

tion directors, representing the Colleges, and the officers of the Department, re-

presenting the extension service. The agreements are made in accordance with the

general memorandum of understanding between the Department and the College, and,

as far as the Smith-Lever funds and the Department funds are concerned. in accor-

dance with provisions of the Smith-Lever Act and the Department appropriation

actS. These relations should be quite definitely defined in the project agree-

ments, and there should be an understanding all around in some definite way as to

just what the relations of the State Leaders are to the Department service.

It may be well, in this connection, to remind you that the relations of the

Department to the extension services in the States are of two distinct kinds, as

I understand it. Tha first of these may be called the administrative relations,

or, perhaps, if we should use a-more definite term, the regulatory relations.

These grow out of the federal laws, which are so drawn as to give the Department

certain definite administrative functions with relation to a large share of the

funds which are used in extension work in the States. The Department is bound, by

the terms of these statutes, by its relation to Congress, and to the Treasury and

other Departments of the Government, to see to it that the federal-funds which

come under these laws are properly expended, and that such things as the franking

privilege are properly complied with..

Our Department and also the extension forces in the States must work in this

line according to the terms of the laws as they actually exist. It is not a ques-

tion at all of what we, as individuals, would like to have. in the law. The only

cestion we can consider is, "17hat is the law?" For example; in the Smith-Levor

Act there is a prohibition against using any of the money appropriated under that

act for promoting, directly or indirectly, "agricultural trains." Now there may

be a difference of opinion as to the wisdom of putting that particular phrase in

the Smith-Lever Act. Some people very likely think that agricultural trains have

served a useful purpose and that they still ought to be continued as extension

agencies, but, as long as that phrase is in the act, there is nothing to be done

except to cut out expenses'for agricultural trains from the charges against the

Smith-Lever funds. That question having been definitely raised, the Department.

has recently had to issue a ruling on that matter. Such is the field in which

the Department has administrative control of funds, and of work as related to the


A second kind of relation which we hold to the extension services of the

States is a cooperative relation, and that is a much more pleasant matter to

dwell upon. This cooperative relation is based on the free choice of the States

and the colleges. It was not necessary that any State should accept the Smith-

Lever Act or entet into cooperative relations with the Department of. Agriculture

through that act or through a memorandum of understanding for the carrying on of

extension work. But when the States have done that they are, of course, under

obligation to enter into the cooperation in the spirit of the agreement which

they have made with reference to extension work and the Smith-Lever Act. You will

remember that the Smith-Lever Act says that the colleges may inaugurate "agricul-

tural extension work which shall be carried on in cooperation with the U. S. De-

partment of Agriculture, ...and this work shall be carried on in such manner as

may be mutually agreed upon by the Secretary of Agriculture and the State Agricul-

tural Colleges," and each year "plans for the work to be carried on under this


Act 61All b submitted by the proper officials of each College, and approved by the

Secretary of Agriculture." Now the key word of all that, as .-egrds cooperation, I

think, is mutual. In other words, there is to be a copartnership between the col-

leges and the Department, and this copartnership is practically to run through all

features of the extension system. In order to carry out such a cooperative system

on a mutual plan, it is obviously necessary that the parties in cooperation should

interchange views, should take into account the adaptation of plans to local, state

and national conditions, for the best interests of the work; and should seek, as far

as theycan, to make an. accurate definition of their plans and to put them in the

form of what we have come to call project agreements. That having been done, there

is, of course, obligation on all parties concerned to carry out such agreements.

It is because of these cooperative relations and the mutual -interest and re-

sponsibility which we have in all this- work that I attach great importance to such

meetings as we are entering upon today. There can hardly be any real cooperation,

inthe proper sense of the word, without a full understanding of matters from the

different standpoints of the cooperating parties, and to that end there should be,

of course, perfectly free and frank expressions of ideas and opinions with reference

to the work in order that we may have the moist thorough understanding of 'each others

points of view and the conditions as they are known to us severally. And thus, by

coming together as we are assembled here today, and having the opportunity, which

we all hope will be availed of to the fullest extent, of free discussion and in-

quiry, we ought to have the best chance of getting together and of remaining to-

gether in our cooperative enterprises; and while we are to consider mainly at this

meeting the phases of work that belong to the County Agent part qf our system, the

same spirit and fundamental ideas will apply to all branches of the extension


In order that I may contribute a small share tc this complete understanding

of our enterprises, I am going to venture a brief definition of extension work

in agriculture and home economics, as we are trying to work it out in this country.

In my mind it is a permanent system of practical education for farming people,

outside of schools, conducted according tc well matured plans, by public officers,

for the benefit of all the people. There may be other things which ought to be

written into a complete definition of extension work, but we may have that as a

sufficient basis for our discussion.

Now I think we would all agree that it is essential to the highest success

of this system that we should have the sympathy, confidence, and support of all

classes of our people in this great enterprise. But while that is so, if this is

a public system, we cannot, it seems to me, allow individuals or organizations of

business men, railroad men, or even farmers to control the plans or the actions

of the public officers in charge of extension work. We ought to have, and I should

certainly hope that :e would have, advice and assistance from all kinds of people,

and particularly, of course, from farmers, but after the plans are made and agreed

upon by the properly constituted officers, they should not be departed from at the

dictation of anybody.

I speak of this because in my definition we are establishing a permanent sys-

tem of extension work, and it is an absurdity, in my mind, to undertake to establish

a system of that kind under public auspices if we are going to try to run it on the

basis of accepting the suggestions and plans of a variety of agencies, which want

to come in at their onm time and on their own terms, to do certain things when we

have other things definitely planned and agreed upon which we are trying to put intc

permanent iA?.-? and usefulness for the benefit of the people.

This extensio- system is not only a public and permanent service, but is

also under the highest obligation to teach the truth. I suppose that, among other

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things, it was for this reason that it has been connected with the agricultural

colleges and experiment stations and the Department of Agriculture, --because these

institutions are supposed to have the largest available funds of accurately deter-

mined knowledge regarding agriculture and home economics. That does not apply

simply to a knowledge of the science of agriculture but also it its practice, for

while these institutions may not have done all that they might have done along more

practical lines, yet they are in position, better than individuals certainly, to

find out what is the best practice, as well as what is the best theory of agriculture.

At many points this knowledge, we shall have to confess, is partial and defective,

but on the whole, in a large way, I believe it is the best that re have. For that

reason I think that all agents in the extension services are under obligation to

find out just what this knowledge is which the colleges and the Department have,

and to be guided by it in their teaching of the people, and this is particularly

true of such knowledge as rests on a scientific foundation. For example, take such

things as the cause, prevention, or treatment of animal diseases, or the nutritive

value of feeding stuffs or human foods, or the use of preservatives used in canning

food, etc. I speak of that particularly because, with the spread of popular interest

in such matters and the enormous commercial interests involved, we are having a

flood of newspaper and magazine articles, and even books, the ideas of which are in

many cases influenced by!.imperfect knowledge, careless statement, or even commercial

bias. Extension agents, must, therefore, it seems to me, tie up closely with the

College and Department experts in these subjects as, on the whole, they are the

safest guides in such matters. How to combine popular interest with accuracy and

tru-h in formulated statements is a somewhat difficult matter and that difficulty

is increased by the differences in the temperament and point of view of the workers,

The scientific man naturally thinks chiefly of accuracy in statement, and cares

comparatively little about the popular interest. The extension man, on the other

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hand, naturally thinks of how the people whom he is teaching are going to receive

the truth, and he may be tempted, therefore, to sacrifice accuracy of statement

to what io 3ometime3 called popularity of statement,. But certainly it should be

a matter of deepest concern to those people who are going out to teach masses of

our farmers that they shall have what they say to them, and what they demonstrate

to them, accurate and sound, as well as interesting.

Now in agriculture and home economics we are in much the same condition, I

judge, as we are in medicine. Nobody knows all the truth, and there are a great

many uncertainties and difficulties, as well as disagreements of opinion among

even the best experts. We have to deplore and confess the limitations of our

knowledge, but I think we would all agree that when we find the doctors disagree

on any subject, that is the very time when it is unwise for us to consult a quack.

In other words, we must do the best we can with the authorities that we have,

rather than to go outside and take up with the opinions of people who have not made

any careful study of any given subject.

Our aim, then, is to organize in every State and county of our vast country

a pernaanent, public, and truthful extension service, and as an aid to that end we

are assembled here today.

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