A century of service


One hundred years of Lincoln County Extension

LINCOLN COUNTY — In 1918, the second ever Oregon State University Extension Service office was founded in Lincoln County. Today, it still serves a number of purposes in the community by providing groups that teach specific interests and life skills, as well as providing scholarships and community services. The extension has garnered community support and continues to change the lives of people involved in it.

In 1914, the Smith-Lever act was signed into law, which established a system of land-grant university extension services to spread information about advances in agricultural practices and technology to areas that may not have the same access as others. Each state has one university which connects the various extensions — in the Beaver State, it’s Oregon State University.

And so, just four years after the law was established, Lincoln County was the second to receive such services.

The original extension office was in downtown Toledo, but then moved to the county courthouse, then to Second Street in Newport — where Goodwill now sits — before finally settling into the current building on Bay Boulevard. In all of these locations, the focus has been on research and youth development.

Activities through the ages

Oregon State University’s first record of a 4-H club in Lincoln County is dated 1921: a dairy club with 8 members. As of 2018, there are 14 clubs and nearly 140 kids registered. These projects and programs for Lincoln County kids teach vocational skills as well as those used for hobbies. But more than that, they teach values.

“I know that we had minimum three veterinarians that came up during the time I was involved,” said Patty Mann, who worked a total of 28 years at the extension. “And one girl was in medical school — I don’t know what the result of that was — two policemen, at least. So you know, I think it points them in good directions.”

Lincoln County 4-H Program Coordinator Todd Williver echoed that statement, saying that he often has community members comment on how well-mannered and well-spoken 4-H kids are.

“There’s a reason that we’re the oldest and largest youth development organization in the nation,” said Williver. “And I think that reason is rooted in the research base of what we do, with that connection to the land-grant university … we’re not just an activity provider, we’re a youth development organization.”

There are other clubs in the extension, with varying lengths of history: the Master Gardeners program is one of the bigger groups, while the Food Preservation courses are some of the oldest still in existence.

Another big part of the service’s work with youth: the statewide Outdoor School. Beginning in 1966, Outdoor School gets fifth and sixth graders out of classrooms and into the great outdoors so they can learn about science, the environment and social emotional learning, among other things. The natural resources of a county are a large factor which shapes the extension.

Sea Grant

Lincoln County doesn’t have an agricultural agent anymore because there isn’t a lot of agricultural industry in Lincoln County. However, the county does have a part time forestry agent and was the first extension service in Oregon to hire a marine agent: Bob Jacobson, the first “county agent in hip boots.”

“The interesting thing is that my hiring preceded Sea Grant by a couple of years,” Jacobson explained in a 2015 interview with OSU. “So OSU was off to a running start by the time the Sea Grant program came around. And once we got Sea Grant money, then we were able to hire Extension agents and specialists in other places on the coast.”

When he was hired in 1967, Jacobson’s job was to take the approach that agricultural agents were taking to investigating and informing the community about better practices in the field, and apply that to the fishing world. His work helped set a precedent for the Sea Grant program, which was established in 1971.

Community support

The extension is designed to support its community, specifically through researching areas of importance for the surrounding population, but also through sharing that information.

“As I think about extension, it’s informal education,” said Evelyn Brookhyser, a retired 31-year employee of the extension. “No matter what discipline the professionals are working in, they’re working with the people to identify what the greatest needs are and then they go from that.”

Just as the extension is there to serve the county, the county began directly supporting the extension in 1988 when an extension service district was established, which is still in existence today.

“The reason that was established was because, the fiscal year before that, the county made the decision not to fund the extension office,” said Brookhyser. “So it has its own financial base — sort of like a hospital district or a fire district, water district … everyone worked hard to establish that so it was a part of the growth of this office and the stability of this office that made that happen.”

Looking forward, there are still growth goals. Particularly in 4-H, that means branching out from animal and agriculture clubs.

“Although we really still embrace and support the animal and agriculture roots, we’re so much more than that,” said Williver. “And we will work hard to build a club around anyone’s interests. If we have a volunteer that is passionate … and kids that are interested in beekeeping, we will find a way to make that work.”

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