The concept of extending the teaching activities of academic institutions beyond campus dates back as far as 800 BC. The emperors of the Zhou dynasty sent out educators to the countryside to teach crop rotation and drainage techniques. The concept took root in Europe during the Irish Potato Famine, when Lord Clarendon sent out scientifically trained instructors to teach farmers how to grow alternative crops. From the British Isles, the system spread to the European mainland and from there it reached the US in the early 20th century.
Extensions in the US
In the US, the extension services are provided by land-grant universities and colleges. Land-grant academic institutions are granted stewardship and usufruct of federal lands and are, by that token, at the forefront of agroscience. The instructors of the US extension services do not only teach agricultural techniques, however, but also home economics, youth development and related topics.
The UofA Extension
The University of Arizona is such a land-grant institution. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) cooperates with the Federal Government and the individual counties to operate the Cooperative Extension. The Extension links the university with the citizens by providing educational programs on a host of subjects to all Arizonans of all ages.
Master Gardener Program
Among the programs offered by the Pima County Cooperative Extension is its Master Gardener program. This program comprises a semester course specific to gardening in our neck of the woods with a focus on ecological balance. Additionally, the program offers seasonal workshops, as well as presentations at local libraries on specific topics. The training is mostly hands-on at the 14 demonstration gardens managed by the PCCE.
Citizens can ask specific questions on plant problems to PCCE by calling (520) 626-5161 to talk directly to a Master Gardener, or take their problem plant or pictures thereof to the PCCE facility at 4210 N. Campbell Avenue, Tucson. The facility is open on weekdays from 8:30 – 4:30.
The Weekly Green spoke with PCCE Master Gardener Michael Ismael.
(Full interview 17:22)
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