Outreach and Cooperative Extension: #EXT100Years

May 7, 2014 in Articles


This post is the part of a series commemorating the 100-Year anniversary of the signing of the Smith-Lever Act which officially created the national Cooperative Extension Service.


Read More about the 100-year anniversary of Cooperative Extension.


Outreach and Cooperative Extension

To disseminate up-to-date research results to turfgrass professionals and homeowners, Penn State’s turfgrass program has a strong outreach component. Cooperative Extension professionals statewide use workshops, consultations, and publications to cover topics such as diagnosing and managing turf diseases, selecting grass varieties, controlling weeds, and recycling grass clippings. Labs at Penn State are available for turf disease diagnosis and soil testing.

While newsletters keep professionals up-to-date on the latest industry news, 15 percent of the state’s more than three million homeowners receive lawn care information directly from Penn State specialists and Cooperative Extension offices. Many more homeowners receive this information indirectly through garden centers, nurseries, newspapers, and magazines. Local Cooperative Extension meetings and workshops throughout Pennsylvania draw hundreds of attendees each year.

Research field days, initiated in the early 1930s and held every other year at Penn State, provide an opportunity for turfgrass managers from around the state to look at turf selections in evaluation plots and to learn about the results of new turfgrass research. These field days attract hundreds of attendees.

In addition to early turfgrass conferences, Penn State offered a Greenkeepers Short Course, which ran from 1931 until 1940. Short courses typically ran for four weeks and were designed to overlap with the annual conference, for those wanting more in-depth study. According to the program from the first Greenkeepers Short Course, “This course is designed for greenkeepers, green chairmen, superintendents of parks, gardeners, and others interested in fine turf problems. Instruction is given . . . in the broad underlying problems which deal with practical turf management. No special educational preparation is required, anyone who is interested and able to read and write being eligible. It should be remembered, however, that the course is designed especially for those who have had some experience in fine turf management.” Room and board for the short course, incidentally, was $9.50 to $10.50 per week.

In 1955, the Pennsylvania Turfgrass Council was established and began co-sponsoring the annual Pennsylvania Turfgrass Conference. As the event grew in popularity and attracted more attendees, it became necessary to find an even larger meeting location. ‘Around 1982, a plan was hatched to move the conference to Hershey,” says Watschke. “At Hershey we could have a trade show along with the conference, and we thought it would be great. It turns out, though, that the alumni didn’t like it. They wanted to come back to Penn State. They wanted old home week. So we moved it back to campus in 1990 and took it to the Nittany Lion Inn, and that is the current site of our Pennsylvania Golf Turf Conference each November.”

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