Four-H program assistant Charmae Kendall and Pam Matthis took a stroll down memory lane while looking at vintage pictures of agriculture and families in Sampson County Monday during a day set aside to celebrate a 100-year milestone, and more, in the life of Sampson’s Cooperative Extension.
“It’s neat to see all of our partners come together because a lot of times we’re doing our own thing, but we’re here together to celebrate our success,” Kendall said, as dozens of current and former Extension agents strolled through the U.S. 421 facility, mingling with community and government leaders and others who came to pay tribute to the Extension and its service to the county.
Although Sampson County’s extension began in 1911, Cooperative Extension programs across the country are observing 100 years. It began with the Smith-Lever Act, which allowed university researchers to discover better ways to produce crops.
“It gives us a chance to reflect on the work that’s been done by the previous people here,” livestock agent Max Knowles said. “It gives some motivation for the future.”
Currently, N.C. Cooperative Extension has locations in the state’s 100 counties and the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. It’s supported by agents from North Carolina State University and North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University.
County Extension director Eileen Coite said a lot of time went into the celebration.
“We had a tremendous amount of support from the community and the staff,” Coite said.
For Gwen Starling, the group is one big happy family. The retired agent worked with the organization for more than 50 years. She wished more people were around to celebrate it.
“It’s great,” Starling said. “I love these people out here.”
Barbara Board, Eastern Regional coordinator for NC A&T University, said they are pleased to have served individuals for 100 years.
“It’s an indication, that we’re doing what’s important to communities,” Board said. “We’re glad to know people are coming out to celebrate with us.”
Horticulture agent Tom Hroza said agriculture is the backbone of the local community.
“Our mission is to bring information from universities to the rural communities,” Hroza said. “The rural community depends on the university to do the research and for us to deliver the information. This is a way the rural community grows and prospers.”
Retired agent Marsha Smith enjoyed spending time with former friends and coworkers.
“It’s wonderful that the Extension’s past is being recognized,” Smith said. “We do have a wonderful history in North Carolina and particularly in Sampson County.”
Along with a meal catered — and served — by the Farm Bureau, a gigantic birthday cake beckoned visitors to come and sample a piece, which most did as they mingled, looked at old pictures and memorabilia and shared stories.
“It’s a great celebration,” an elated Coite said, surveying the guests.