More than 100 years ago, each state in the union received a Land-Grant. This money was designed to teach citizens about agriculture, home economics and mechanic arts.
Those grants were assigned to institutions of higher education. Here in South Dakota, that money goes to the SDSU Extension.
Most of us are not thinking about planting right now. However, if you’re a Master Gardener, like Cami Jacobsen, it’s what you think about year-round.
“We teach at the local libraries. We’ll come talk to a classroom, or an event that they want a speaker,” said Jacobsen.
The local Master Gardeners don’t just talk about plants. They go out into the community helping start gardens in schools, or on public property, so everyone knows how to grow their own produce.
“And then we do things like, we got involved in counting the ash trees last Summer and Fall to help the city defray some of the costs,” said Jacobsen.
The Master Gardener program is operated through SDSU Extension.
The Extension system dates back to the mid-1800s. With South Dakota State being a Land-Grant University, the school partners with local groups, like Master Gardeners, to provide resources for everyone.
“Really, primarily, the intent of that federal legislation 150 years ago was to make education available to the common man. And so, that is really the mission of a land-grant,” said Karla Trautman, Interim Director for SDSU Extension.
One of their more well-known programs operated by SDSU Extension is something a lot of South Dakota kids grew up with; 4-H.
“We have staff at the state level that help organize and oversee the administration of the program, but we also have staff at that community level that work directly with the families and the youth members of that program,” said Trautman.
It’s not just the science behind agriculture SDSU Extension helps people tackle.
Another valuable resource is Family Finances. This includes everything from balancing a budget to finding the best recipes to eat healthy and save money.
“Topics that really help them improve their prosperity and their quality of life. And really helping them problem solve issues and challenges that they’re faced every day,” said Trautman.
Interim Director for SDSU Extension, Karla Trautman, says the true mission of every program they offer is to demonstrate how research and science can help improve everything from acres of farm land, to a small, community garden.
“It’s nice to beautify your city. It’s nice to be hands on. It’s really nice to be able to offer in the elementary schools a vegetable garden,” said Jacobsen, “It’s just nice to bring it in to this town on a real practical level.”
“The greatest gratification comes from being able to sit down and work with an individual or a community who are facing a challenge, a problem and they just need the right kind of information to help them solve that problem,” said Trautman.
There are eight regional SDSU Extension offices across the state. There are also several online resources covering all of the topics we discussed tonight, and much more!