What Is An Extension Service: Using Your County Extension Office For Home Garden Information

Gardener Holding Red Flowers
extension service horticulturalist
(Image credit: Doug Berry)

(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden) Universities are popular sites for research and teaching, but they also provide another function - reaching out to help others. How is this accomplished? Their experienced and knowledgeable staff extend their resources to farmers, growers, and home gardeners by offering Cooperative Extension Services. So what is an Extension Service and how does it help with home garden information? Keep reading to learn more.

What is an 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

Regardless of the program, 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.

Cooperative Extension Services and Home Garden Information

Each county in the United States has an Extension office that works closely with experts from universities and helps provide information about gardening, agriculture and pest control. 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 hardiness zones. They can also help with soil tests, either free of charge or low-cost. So whether you're starting 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 Local 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. With so many of these offices, you may wonder, “How do I find my local Extension office?” 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 or CES websites and clicking on the maps. In addition, you can place your zip code into our Extension service search form to find the nearest office in your area.

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.