Turn to the County Extension Office for Local Gardening Expertise

Turn to the County Extension Office for Local Gardening Expertise
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Turn to the County Extension Office for Local Gardening Expertise

The Cooperative Extension is Your Go-to Place for Help with Yard and Garden Questions

Also called County Extension and Agricultural Extension, offices have staff members, Extension Agents, whose only job is answering questions about plants and pests for your county, using the best science and applying it locally. And it is free! To quote their website: “Wherever you live, Extension’s job is to determine what issues, concerns and needs are unique to each community, and offer sound and effective solutions.”

The Cooperative Extension program was created by Congress in 1914 to aid agriculture by providing research-based information and education to farmers and farm families. At the time more than 50% of the U.S. population was rural and 30% of the workforce farmed. They were and are supported by programs at land-grant universities; today coordination is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Cooperative Extension has evolved with the country. Today only 19% of the population is rural and fewer than 2% farm. In response, Cooperative Extension offices support really diverse programs, aimed at providing good scientific information to the public wherever they live. They advise on topics from soil and water management to health, nutrition, and parenting, to native plants and plant pests. They also run the 4-H program.

Growing plants and animals remains at the core of their programs. In agricultural counties, they are great at crop- and livestock-related questions. In suburban counties, they are yard and garden specialists. In urban counties, they focus on urban issues from street trees to roof gardens. Cooperative Extension websites provide free fact sheets on topics from animal health to gardening basics to how to save seeds. There are people who will answer your questions on the phone, or to whom you can take that twisted leaf for disease identification. They identified the lines on my rose leaves as a leaf-miner and directed me to fact sheets for recognizing and controlling henbit.

The U.S. and its territories have some 3,243 counties (or equivalents like Louisiana’s parishes) and almost all of them have a Cooperative Extension office, and the others are served by a nearby office. This is a mind-boggling program, serving central New York City, rural Nebraska, Florida, Alaska, and Guam with locally oriented experts who answer your questions for free.

Topics Cooperative Extension Agents typically deal with include identification of plant diseases and recommendations for treatment, identification of insects and recommendations if they are pests, best practices for planting and maintaining shrubs and trees, recommended plants for the county, from ground covers to shade trees, advice on raising animals from chickens to …check out their websites. Search for ‘local extension office near me’ using your favorite search engine.

Don’t overlook the Cooperative Extension as a resource. Search online for "County Extension Office" to find the office in your county.