Cooperative Extension Turns 100 May 8

Barbara Allen-Diaz, University of California Vice President, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, talked with California Ag Today about the 100th anniversary of the Cooperative Extension.

On May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Smith-Lever Act, which created Cooperative Extension to help farmers, homemakers and youth apply the latest university research to improve their lives.

Barbara Allen-Diaz“For us, it’s very exciting,” said Allen-Diaz, “because we re going to celebrate our 100th birthday party of Cooperative Extension over this entire year; but in particular, on May 8, 2014, we will try to engage as many people as possible across the state of California in our day called, “A Celebration of Science and Service.” 

Allen-Diaz continued, “We’re asking folks through our local community groups, public K-12 schools, students on our campuses, all of our 4-H clubs throughout the state, even folks on our Google campus, to participate with us in celebrating 100th years of cooperative extension by being a scientist for the day.”

Cooperative Extension wants everybody to go to their “Be a Scientist for a Day” website for this day of citizen science and service, to answer all three or any one of the three following questions:

“The first question is on pollinators,” said Allen-Diaz. “We want people to count how many pollinators they see outside in their yard, in their school garden, at their place of work, wherever they are when they log on, and count how many pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, dragonflies, etc., they see over a three-minute period.”

“We have information on our website to learn about pollinators, since we’re an education institute, and how important they are not only to the future of agriculture,” she explained, “but really to the future of life on this planet. Because that’s how plants are able to produce seeds—having their flowers pollinated.”

UCCE Centennial Carrots

“Pollinators are an incredibly important part of our ecosystems throughout the world so, not only for food production,” commented Allen-Diaz, “but also for the health of all our ecosystems.

“The second question deals with water,” continued Allen-Diaz. “Obviously, water is incredibly important to all of us. In this particular year of record drought we’d really like to know how you conserve water in your daily life. There will be a series of drop down menus where you can input your data.”

Allen-Diaz stated, “The third question is on food, again with drop-down menus. Where does your food come from? Where do you get your food?”

“We ask for your location, though you can choose not to answer,” remarked Allen-Diaz, “whether people log on through their phone, computer, iPad or other instruments. With these geopoints, we can analyze the data and produce a map of the state and show everyone where pollinators are, water use by region, and where our food comes from. The more people who log on and participate, to the more we can populate our map of California.”

“For 100 years, we have engaged our local communities to work with us in problem-solving issues of importance in agricultural natural resources, nutrition, urban horticulture, home economics, and use development,” said Allen-Diaz.

Farmer and Ranchers Voices from the Drought

A team of UC researchers is developing a project that will use digital tools to capture the voices of the farming and ranching families who are battling the worst drought they have witnessed.

On one front, the project, called Farmer and Rancher Voices from the Drought, is cultivating a following through a new Facebook group.

Today, however, they are launching a new audio component, where farmers and ranchers are interviewed and recorded by a friend, colleague or loved one.

They document their stories of the drought, explaining what practices have worked for them so that others dealing with these struggles can better cope.

Through the broad 100-year Cooperative Extension effort at the University of California, faculty, staff and researchers are reaching out to the extensive network of farming and ranching families across the state, encouraging each of them to share their stories.

How the ‘Voices’ project works:

The audio component of the project is hosted on SoundCloud, where anyone can easily record and upload an audio track to share.

The team is moderating the SoundCloud group and approving each recording. The tracks will be shared across our social media and web pages, where they will hopefully gain the attention of media, as well as the general public.

Here are a few guidelines to smooth the process:

  • Create an account. Recording is easy, but first you must go to the SoundCloud site and sign up. You can also download and record with their smart phone app.
  • Research your strategy. StoryCorps, a nonprofit project, has an excellent instruction guide for helping you record your interview. While you’re there, we encourage you to also upload your finished story to the StoryCorps DIY page, where it will be preserved at the Library of Congress.
  • Keep it short. By limiting your recording to three minutes, your story will keep listeners interested while maintaining its most essential parts.
  • Frame your conversation around questions. Have your interviewer select from this list and add follow-ups.


  1. Provide your name, what you do and some background information on your farming or ranching operation.
  2. How has your operation been affected by the drought?
  3. What have been your management practices in response?
  4. What will you do differently if it continues?
  5. Is this the worst drought year you’ve experienced?
  6. What are your stocking and supplemental feed rates? Or how much land is planted versus fallow? Explain.
  7. What will your operation look like next year if the drought continues?
  8. How has this affected you and your family?
  9. What advice would you give others in similar situations?
  10. What should those outside California know about this drought?

Finally, name it. Once you have successfully loaded your conversation onto our SoundCloud group, let us know more about yourself.

Send us your feedback and some details so we can follow up: an email address or phone number, the storyteller’s name, the interviewer’s name, the company name (if you’re affiliated with an agricultural organization) and a photo.