Bob Vila Radio: What Is the Cooperative Extension Service?

Begun over a hundred years ago, the Cooperative Extension Service remains a valuable resource for farmers and backyard gardeners alike.

By Gretchen Grant | Updated Jun 9, 2014 10:30 AM

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

I’m sure you’ve read articles that suggested contacting your local Cooperative Extension Office for services like soil testing, but have you ever wondered exactly what Cooperative Extension is? Here’s the scoop.


Listen to BOB VILA ON COOPERATIVE EXTENSION or read the text below:

Cooperative Extension


The Cooperative Extension Service was set up about a hundred years ago as a partnership between land-grant universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its purpose was to spread the knowledge gleaned from university research out to farmers, where it could have practical benefits. Other Extension initiatives included the World War Two-era Victory Gardens and 4-H clubs, which continue to this day.

When the system was founded, about 30 percent of the U.S. workforce was engaged in farming; today that figure is less than 2 percent. But the service still has much to offer. Extension Offices provide guides to plants that grow well in your area, solutions to common lawn problems, and other subjects of interest to backyard gardeners. In New York, the Extension Office is at Cornell University; in New Jersey, it’s at Rutgers; in Connecticut, it’s at UConn. All have web sites with further information and instructions for contacting them.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.