SMETHPORT (EC) — This year Penn State Extension celebrates 100 years in McKean County.
Many people associate extension with agriculture or the 4-H program. To really understand extension work, one must go back in history to 1862 to the President Abraham Lincoln administration. Sen. Justin Morrill of Vermont introduced a bill that provided free grants of federal land to each state to establish colleges devoted chiefly to the study of agriculture and mechanical; arts. Sixty-nine colleges, including The Pennsylvania University, were established. Because of their origin, these institutions became known as land grant colleges.
PSU is organized around three divisions: teaching, research and extension that includes sharing new information to the public.
Agricultural extension at PSU was founded in 1914. Two years later, the first county agent, P. S. Crossman, arrived in McKean County.
Records from July 11, 1916, outlined the Farm Bureau's work for that year, as "getting samples of the soils in the various localities and have them sent to State College for analysis, make careful study of oak smut in the county, conduct later in the season a Balanced Ration Campaign."
On March 29, 1916, McKean became the 33rd county in Pennsylvania to establish a County Agricultural Service Extension. An article in the former McKean County Democrat noted that H. R. Hilton, Port Allegany; A. T. Larson, Kane; Eugene McCarey, Turtlepoint; H. J. Dieter, Bradford; and H. J. Rice, C. W. Lillibridge and James McKean, Smethport; were responsible for opening the county's extension office.
The first office, located on Main Street, was known as the Farm Bureau Office. It operated until Nov. 7, 1923, when the Farm Bureau name was changed to the Agricultural Extension Association.
Today, the Penn State Extension of McKean County is located at the former county home complex next to Sena Kean Manor on U.S. Route 6, just west of Smethport.
County agents are now known as extension educators, and they work in many areas, such as community development, forestry and water quality, well as the traditional agriculture, family living and youth development programs.
Jim Clark has been an extension educator in the county since 1989. Looking back on this assignment in McKean County, he said, “In my 27 years I have taught farm livestock production, farm financial management, and for the past few years, water quality. Extension changes based on the needs of the people.”
Don Tanner, a veteran of 38 years with the extension service, is the current district director for five counties, including McKean. Tanner recently hired Kimberly Bohn as a new extension forester and Samantha Sessamen as the new 4-H/youth educator.
Tanner said, "Penn State Extension has been using research findings to help people solve problems for 100 years, and we look forward to continuing this tradition for another century and beyond."