Cooperative Extension readying for centennial celebration

Lauren Williams Staff Writer

January 1, 2014

Today marks the beginning of a new year for all, but for the national Cooperative Extension, 2014 isn’t just another year; it’s the Extension’s centennial year. As the new year kicks off, Cooperative Extension officials, staff, advisory board members, partners, and volunteers across the nation are busy making plans and setting dates to celebrate the Extension’s 100 year history, and Sampson County’s Extension is preparing to join the party as well.

“Right now we’re in the process of making plans,” shared Eileen Coite, director of Sampson’s Cooperative Extension, noting that the official date of the Extension’s centennial is May 8, 2014.”Our hope is to have our own event around the same time in early May and we’re hoping to have other events leading up to that grand finale. Ideally, we’d like to have an event each month leading up to May’s event.”

Although few dates have been set at present, “we have established a committee within our staff” to plan events for celebrating the centennial, said Coite, adding that staff have decided to include the local Community Ag Day, scheduled for April 5, in the celebration and are considering centering one of the other events around the Extension’s greenhouses.

“We’ve been talking with other agriculture groups around the county to keep them informed and we’re inviting them to participate,” she continued. “We also want to include the county government and the county commissioners. We usually do something with them every year but didn’t get to last year because there’s been so much transition, but we’ll do something with them to highlight the accomplishments over the past 100 years.”

The newly formed committee is also busy working on updating the local Extension’s historical documents in light of the centennial.

“It was put together for the 85th anniversary in 1999,” explained Coite of the document. Once finished, “it will have a complete breakdown of all the (local) Extension’s staff from its inception to now. It will also mark major events and accomplishments, different milestones, impacts on agriculture and changes in agriculture.”

One of the many interesting historical aspects about Sampson’s Cooperative Extension, Coite shared, is that it is actually over 100 years old.

“It actually started in 1911 while across much of the state, andthe nation it didn’t start until 1914” when the Smith-Lever Act was signed. “I guess some counties got things going before it was official.”

The document will not only focus on the Sampson County Extension’s rich and unique history but will also include “our vision for the future,” noted Coite. “It will all come together, the past, present, and future.”

As for her own hopes for the county’s Extension, Coite shared that she wants the agency to “remain a strong, viable resource for the community” and to “change with the changing times and environment.”

“There’s so much technology out there and we need to help provide the community with research-based information from the university,” she continued, “and help people find the right answers and solutions.”

Some of the areas in which Cooperative Extension staff can be helpful, answering questions and providing information, are in the areas of livestock, horticulture, wildlife, field crops, aquatics and pond management, forestry, bee-keeping, and pesticides, to name a few.

“There’s so much information out there, but not all of it is right, so that’s where we can come into play,” added Coite. Back in November, as she anticipated the Extension’s centennial, Coite pointed out that “we (local Extension staff) are looking forward to the next 100 years as we reevaluate what our specialized areas are, what the focus of our guidance will be, and as we continue to serve the citizens.”

As staff and others in the community continue to plan and organize events to celebrate the national Cooperative Extension’s 100 year anniversary, Coite shared that she and the staff are interested in hearing from those who have been connected with the local Extension in the past — previous staff members, advisory committee members, 4-H leaders, farm cooperators, and others —, adding that they are welcome to participate in the upcoming events.

“We’re also looking for things that you lost track of over time,” she said, mentioning photos and historical items related to Sampson County’s Cooperative Extension.

Coite noted that the local Extension office has many historical items on display thanks to community members who have donated them but that the staff is interested in unearthing even more of the agency’s history.

“We’re looking for those historical markers to help tell the story,” she said.

To contact the Sampson County Cooperative Extension, please call 910-592-7161. For more information about the Extension and its offerings and events, please visit the Extension’s website at

Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at