What Is The County Extension Office? Access A Wealth Of Local Gardening Knowledge

Tap into a mine of gardening experience for free by contacting your local Cooperative Extension Service. Discover how to make the most of this vital resource.

Cooperative Extension Services gardening experts
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Did you know that your local university is a mine of gardening information? In thousands of counties across the United States, experienced and knowledgeable staff extend their resources to farmers, growers, and home gardeners by offering Cooperative Extension Services.

Known as the local County Extension Office, the service provides informal education and learning opportunities to gardeners and farmers throughout the country – whether living rurally or in urban areas. Most of this help is free, but some services incur a small cost.

What Is The Cooperative Extension Service?

With its beginnings in the late 1800s, the Extension system was created to address rural agricultural issues, but it has since changed to adapt to a wider range of needs in both urban and rural areas. These typically cover six major areas:

  • 4-H Youth Development
  • Agriculture
  • Leadership Development
  • Natural Resources
  • Family and Consumer Sciences
  • Community and Economic Development

All Extension experts meet public needs at a local level. They provide economically sound and environmentally friendly approaches and products to anyone who needs them.

These programs are available through county and regional Extension offices supported by NIFA (National Institute of Food and Agriculture), the federal partner in the Cooperative Extension System (CES). NIFA appropriates annual funds to state and county offices.

Each county in the United States has a local County Extension Office that works closely with experts from universities and helps provide information about gardening, agriculture, and pest control.

How Can I Benefit From My Local Extension Service?

Anyone who gardens knows it can present unique challenges, and your local County Extension Office is there to help, providing research-based, home garden information and advice, including information on USDA hardiness zones. They can also help with soil testing, providing kits either free of charge or at a low cost.

So whether you're designing a vegetable garden, choosing appropriate plants, needing pest control tips, or seeking information about lawn care, the Cooperative Extension Services experts know their subject matter, resulting in the most credible answers and solutions to all your gardening needs.

How Do I Find My County Extension Office?

Although the number of local Extension offices has declined over the years – with some county offices consolidating into regional centers – there are still nearly 3,000 of these Extension offices available nationwide.

In most cases, you can find the phone number for your local county Extension office in the government section (often marked with blue pages) of your telephone directory or by visiting the NIFA College Partners Directory and clicking on the map.

Nikki Tilley
Senior Editor

Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.