Like the other Master Gardener groups in other states, in Wisconsin our organization is supported by the publicly funded University Extension system. While our group is made up entirely of volunteers, without the underpaid and overworked employees of the UWEX system, we would struggle to accomplish all we do for our community. A nod, then, to the UWEX system and all it does is the basis for today’s post.
When the land-grant college system was set up, back in 1862, one of the things it was set up to do was to make sure farmers had access to the latest research. In 1887 the colleges were awarded funds for agricultural experiment stations, to broaden the knowledge base. And in 1914, Congress authorized the creation of the Cooperative Extension Service, an educational outreach effort jointly run by the land-grant colleges, the experiment stations, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Almost immediately, state and local governments also got into the act.
Now, over a century later, this publicly funded information machine has offices in every county in every state. And every office has an expert available to answer — at no charge — any question about growing things that you might care to ask. (The extension service offers information on many other subjects as well — including food and water safety, nutrition, and natural resources).
The service is unexcelled at pinpoint diagnosis: testing your soil, putting a name on the disease that’s killing your apple tree, suggesting the varieties of turf grass that will do well in your particular yard. The only fly in this all-purpose ointment is the fact that these offices are PUBLICLY FUNDED and, therefore, funded within the state budget. As a result, at least in Wisconsin, we’re seeing a severe reduction in the funding and, by extension, the staffing of our local UWEX office, and considerably more pressure on the remaining staff members to take on more responsibility. For those of us that live in Wisconsin, it’s important to contact the county board and state representatives to make sure they understand the importance of maintaining a well-staffed and viable UWEX office.
For gardeners in Outagamie County in Wisconsin, you can reach out to the UWEX office at any time to get answers to your gardening questions. For more information, visit the website here.