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History of Extension in Hawai‘i

(Exerpts from The Cooperative Extension Service in Hawai‘i, 1928 to 1981, by George Alstad and Jan Everly Friedson)

The Cooperative Extension Service was created in 1914 with the passage of the Smith-Lever Act but it had no immediate effect on the Territory of Hawai‘i, which was excluded from the provisions at that time. The University of Hawai‘i developed its own version of an extension program, which was the basis of a successful appeal to Congress after several years of struggle for Hawai‘i's inclusion in the Act in November 1928.

The organization plan called for a man and a woman agent in each of the four counties, with a provision for two men and two women in Hawai‘i County. There were also positions for an administrative assistant, an assistant director for home economics a Territorial agent in animal husbandry, one in farm economics and marketing, and one in forestry. Of the $44,300 budget for the first year, $28,841 was spent, leaving about a $15,000 surplus. Some of the projects that got under way the first year were food, clothing, poultry, coffee, gardens, and rabbits.

4-H, like other Extension programs, began long before the introduction of the Smith-Lever Act to Hawai‘i. Under the auspices of the Federal Agricultural Experiment Station and the leadership of Frederick G. Krauss, Harvey F. Willey, and Mabel Greene, 4-H Clubs were launched in 1918 with a 31-member pig club on Mau‘i. In 1923, Miss Greene integrated the 4-H Club work under the public schools with teachers who were trained in agriculture and home economics. By 1926, there were 4-H Clubs on Oahu , Hawai‘i, and Kaua‘i, too. That year, the Pollyanna 4-H Club of Honolulu exhibited at Chicago and won a national prize; it was the first time a club had participated from such a distant place as Hawai‘i.

When the first dean of Extension, William A. Lloyd, arrived in Hawai‘i, he found conditions very different from those to which he was accustomed. Not only were the crops grown differently, but the whole system of land tenure, industrial organization, social life, management, and method were unlike procedures on the mainland.

In February 1929, the Agricultural Extension Service became one of the three divisions in the University—the others were the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Applied Science. All employees of the Agricultural Extension Service were members of the faculty. The county agents were nonresident members of the faculty, and the offices in the counties were part of the University plant. There was an organized chapter, Alpha Omega, of Epsilon Sigma Phi, the National Honorary Extension Fraternity.

During this early period, the home economics program held a mothers’ vacation camp at Kokokahi on Oahu. A chef was employed to prepare and serve the meals; the mothers had no dishes to wash and any husband or babies to tend for two days— a novel experience for them.

An official Extension hibiscus was named and planted in a ceremony at the first annual Extension conference. One thousand rooted Extension hibiscus plants were awarded to 4-H members during the achievement program.

An important conclusion of the first year’s survey and evaluation pointed out the need for Hawai‘i to become more nearly self-sufficient in the production of food—a goal still recognized as important today.

From these humble beginnings, the Cooperative Extension Service continues to make major contributions in agriculture, youth development, family and community development, leadership development, natural resources and other areas in Hawai‘i.