Opinion

Extension agents were valuable county assets

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

This is the time of the year for fairs and activities that were mostly connected with the University of Missouri Extension Service, which was a valuable asset for rural Missouri in years past, especially before the division of Missouri University went metropolitan and adopted the district concept in its operations.

Perhaps it was a sign of the times, but in many minds it meant simply moving operations to the bright lights of a more populated place.

The term County Agent was one of the most respected in any county in the state, especially, and for the most part, that was the situation in Barry County. The people that served in that position were the countyís most respected citizens. They were strong in the churches, schools, civic organizations and general welfare of the areas they served.

Outstanding service

Among those who served Cassville and Barry County to the best of her ability was Nancy Joslin England, who was hired to run the office, which at one time was in the basement of the Post Office. She had no college specialty, but had raised two daughters and realized the importance of young people having activities that would be of some value later on in their lives.

Not long after Nancy took her seat in the office, the extension personnel that oversaw 4-H activities was transferred out of the county. This meant that virtually every community in the county was missing a part of their valuable opportunity to give the youngsters a shot at activities and knowledge preparing them for a possible need further into their lives. Nancy England saw this need and its importance to the county and somehow convinced Extension officials she could do the job.

And, function she did, with the largest number of 4-H clubs ever in the county, along with the greatest membership increase on record for the county.

Achievement show

In advance of additional competition that eventually reached the state level, the Barry County Achievement Show, annually on display for competition at the American Legion Home during the now defunct Cassville Reunion, was a highlight of the season. Here again the activity flourished through the Extension Office and Nancy Englandís guidance.

The American Legion, Irwin-Easley Post 118 of Missouri, realized the importance of the 4-H program and supported it by providing space and support annually.

Information source

Very few are aware of the information that was passed through the office, and probably still is under the present personnel.

There might be solutions for businessmen, there might be a gardening problem for a pair of senior citizens, there could be a hay disease on the verge of breaking out, or a cattle disease lurking at the county line.

The Extension Service even came to the rescue of some disbelievers during the drought years when the existence of Extension connections found hay that saved many cattle in herds all over the county. Those bales that came from more fortunate areas arrived in Cassville aboard cars pulled by the Cassville and Exeter Railroad, one of its last achievements.

Extension forces were always available for important Cassville recognitions of county achievements such as early Livestock Shows on the Public Square and later Dairy Days and Fescue Festivals.

A recent reminder

What the Barry County Extension agents brought to the area came as a reminder recently when a livestock show broadcast was presented by Eldon Cole, longtime livestock specialist in the district offices. Cole was always a speaker at the Cassville Soils and Crops Conference annually held in the American Legion Home.

Featuring speakers covering all aspects of agriculture in the county, many veteran farmers, dairymen and cattlemen of the county garnered years of tenure in attending, perhaps for the annual luncheon provided by the Cassville Chamber of Commerce.

During Coleís presentation he dropped a statistic that might not be recognized by most people. Thatís the fact that Barry County, figuring on the basis of the entire United States, holds the rank of 50th in the entire country. Thatís feeding a lot of folks when you come to think about it.

Thinking agriculture

Not many will remember when one of our homesteads in Cassville on the Old Exeter Road was once a dairy operation. The property was where Les Chapman built his development. The house and 20+ acres were a gift to my mother from her sister, Bess, who resided in Neosho and was very well to do. She had also gifted the land first occupied by Fasco to my aunt Bland White.

During slow economic times our operation included dairy cows and hogs to make things come together economically. My mother bottled milk that I delivered on a route with Ray Correll as the driver. She also made cottage cheese that I can still picture hanging on the clothes line in neatly laundered sugar sacks.

That got us through phases of the Great Depression.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State Universityís Regional Media Hall of Fame.

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