Ohio State University Extension Program Celebrates 100 Years in Noble County
By Gwynn Stewart, Community Development Educator & Christine Gelley, Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator
According to the official Ohio State University archive, in 1903 Ohio State established a Department of Cooperative Experimentation at its Agricultural Experiment Station. It was later known as Agriculture Extension. In 1914, under the federal Smith Lever Act, cooperative extension services and agricultural experiment stations were created at land grant universities and county offices throughout the United States. This linked federal funding to the already existing Experiment Station and Extension at Ohio State University. County agents at these extension locations work with farmers, ranchers, landowners and other rural community members as well as with the 4-H Youth Development program.
On July 16, 2020, the Ohio State University Extension Program in Noble County Celebrates 100 years since the first professional agriculture educator was hired. The proceedings of the Board of Trustees of OSU indicate that on July 16, 1920, the university engaged Thomas Coe Kennard as the first County Agriculture Agent serving Noble County. He was paid an annual salary of $2,000 with a $600 automobile maintenance allowance. Kennard received his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 1920 from Ohio State University. He served in Noble County from 1920 until Feb. 28, 1925.
Thomas Coe Kennard
(Noble Agriculture Agent: July 16, 1920 – Feb. 28, 1928)
W. W. Wyckoff
(Noble Agriculture Agent: April 1925- Feb. 1926)
On April 1, 1925, Noble County engaged Walter Wayne Wyckoff as its second Agriculture Agent. He was also a graduate of Ohio State University earning a degree in 1924. The OSU Extension was known as "Agricultural Extension Service" until around 1965, when it became the "Cooperative Extension Service." By 1994, it was known as the "Ohio State University Extension." From the inception until July 1, 2004, program staff were known as “Extension Agents.” In 2004, their titles were changed to Extension Educator.
There have been 16 Agriculture educators serving Noble County in the past 100 years including Christine Gelley, the current Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator who joined on March 7, 2016. In addition to Kennard, Wyckoff and Gelley, the county was served by George L. Brown (1934-1946); Floyd Henderson (1946-1965); Noman L. Burkitt (1965-1972); Kenneth D. Simeral (1972-1976); Ray Wells (1978-1988); Merlin Wentworth (1988- 1992 and again as emeriti from 2008-2009); Rory Lewandowski (1993-1996); Clif Little (1997-1998 and again from 2009-2013); Daryl Clark, Emeriti (1998-2007); Mark Landefeld (2008); and Breanna Pye (2013-2015).
Agriculture in Ohio has changed significantly since 1920. Today, we have fewer farms managing comparable land acreage and producing better yields. In 1920, there were 206,669 dairy farms in the state. In 2017, there were 77,805 farms total (all commodities). At the time, Ohio was 4th in the nation in egg production, 5th in hog production, 5th in wool production, 10th in calves produced for slaughter, and 4th for overall crop value. Ohio ranked 2nd in maple syrup and hemp production, 3rd for buckwheat, 4th for raspberries, and 7th for red clover seed. Top crop commodities by acreage were corn (3,563,352), hay & forage (3,258,082), and wheat (2,922,592). Pooled across all crops, Ohio’s average value per acre was $48.44.
The ANR Educator’s job today may serve a fewer number of farmers than in 1920, but the work is still as valuable now as it was then. Ohio has a diverse mix of clientele working to provide Americans more with less- more quality food and fiber products with fewer workers and fewer inputs. Extension now utilizes a variety of advanced technologies to reach ad assist clientele along with the tried and true good-old fashioned farm visit and kitchen table talk.
Current day Noble County Extension programs include Agriculture and Natural Resources, Community Development, Family and Consumer Sciences, SNAP-ed and 4-H. The Noble County Extension office currently employs seven staff, four educators (Agriculture and Natural Resources, Community Development, Family and Consumer Sciences and 4-H), a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Education Program assistant and two office associates. Combined, they have a total of more than 98 years in combined Extension service.
Across all disciplines since 1920, Noble County Extension has employed 50 professional agents/educators, associate educators and one “agent in training.” To learn more about Noble County Extension programs and services or for staff contact information, visit https://noble.osu.edu.
The Ohio State University Extension Noble County Office team: front row from left: Lori Harris, SNAP Ed Program Assistant; Nancy Snook, 4-H Educator IV; Christine Gelley, M.S., Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator II; and back row, from left: Carla Wickham, Office Associate; Gwynn Stewart, M.S., Community Development Educator III; Samantha Schott, 4-H/FCS Educator and Tracy Blackstone, Office Associate.
References: July 23, 1920 – Record of Proceedings of the Board of Trustees of the Ohio State University; The Ohio State University Libraries - Guide to the Ohio State University Extension Records, 1914-2017 RG.22.O Historical note; 1920 Ohio State University Makio Yearbook; 1924 Ohio State University Makio Yearbook; and 1920 Census of Agriculture- USDA, Chapter X.