History of LSU Extension Service

R. Keith Collins  |  3/10/2009 6:29:22 PM

History of Extension in Richland Parish

History of Extension in Richland Parish

Began in 1909

This article appeared in the Richland Beacon-News, Rayville, Louisiana, on Saturday, January 11, 1969. Reporter unknown.

The Agricultural Extension Service in Richland Parish, like many private enterprises, went through a pioneer stage of development. The desire for improved farming techniques, and a higher standard of living gave impetus to the County Agent and community leaders working tirelessly during the first quarter of the century. The county agent, working without assistance from other paid farm advisors, spent as much time traveling over dirt and mud roads in his horse and buggy as he did giving aid to the farmers of the parish.

Farm Demonstration Work, as it was called then, was started in Richland Parish in 1909 by G. L. Cumpton. Other county agents to follow were: R. S. Binion, 1910-1913; Q. A. Hester 1914-1917; T. W. Patten 1918-1919; A. F. Houston March to August 1920; W. E. Worsham 1920-1921; Gordon D. Cain 1922-1926 and 1928-1948; and Basil Doles 1949 until the present.

In 1914 came the enactment of the federal Smith-Lever law. This law obligated cooperation between the land grant agricultural colleges, U. S. Department of Agriculture and local governing bodies in carrying on extension work in agriculture and home economics.

The high illiteracy and number of tenant farmers who were constantly moving from place to place made an effective farm program almost impossible in the beginning. The first real progress was made in 1925 when the New Light Community organization was formed with Been Cheek as chairman. The farm demonstration method, still used today, was the most effective teaching device.

Up until 1926, cotton was the only crop in the parish that received much attention. The yield was very low, but with the acceptance of recommended practices production increased. Truck growing and rural engineering were begun. About this time the parish saw the first traces of farm organization.

In 1927, county agent Gordon Cain’s wife organized women’s groups by demonstrating rug making and painting. These were later to be known as Home Demonstration Clubs.

The next year and a half (January to June 1928) saw a total collapse of Extension work in Richland Parish. The Richland Parish Police Jury allocated no funds for any farm programs. County Agent Cain was forced to take a job as deputy clerk of court, while giving aid to farmers as much as he could.

Starting in June 1928, the program was started again and soon grew strong. Cooperation among farmers strengthened, and a grant boost was given by the Rayville Chamber of Commerce organized that year.

Home Demonstration began in 1931 along with the Live at Home Program to stress vegetable gardens. Eloise Adams began the effective home demonstration program that year by organizing nine clubs. Home Demonstration agents serving in Richland Parish: Louise T. Davis 1923-24; Mrs. B. L. Mulhern 1924-1926; Bertha Spinks 1928-1929; Eloise Adams 1931-1932; Pearl LeFevre 1932-1951;Mrs. Hazel W. Fusilier 1951 until the present.

Miss Pearl LeFevre and Mr. Gordon Cain were the true pioneers of Extension work in Richland Parish. They laid the ground work and set the stage for all future Extension programs. Miss LeFevre dedicated 24 years to the enrichment of the parish for future generations.

Four grammar schools began 4-H clubs in 1932. The 4-H program was given a boost with the hiring of an assistant county agent, L. J. Washington, to help County Agent Cain and spent most of his time working with youth groups. Washington served as Assistant County Agent 1932-1937, 1941-1942. Other Assistant and/or Associate County Agents have been: John Benjamin Holton 1935-1938; Frank S. Percy 1938-1939; Bennie N. Boughton 1939-1941; W. C. King 1941-1943; Fred Hathorn 1943-1948; Edwin H. Venable 1946-1947; Franklin N. Burley 1949-1951; Sidney Reech, Jr., 1949-1965; David Plain 1950-1954; Austin Johnston 1954-1956; Arthur Britton 1955-1964; Paul Hardee 1956-2963; Billy Joe Watkins 1962 until the present; Leodrey Williams 1965 until the present; Jesse B. Holder 1966 to the present; Clifton Dry 1968 until the present.

Two former Associate County Agents are serving as County Agent and Parish Chairmen in other parishes. They are: Sidney Reech, Jr., East Carroll Parish, and Austin Johnson, Franklin Parish.

Representatives of the Home Demonstration Clubs of the parish organized a parish Home Demonstration Council in 1935 with Miss Pearl LeFevre as their advisor.

The organization of the Cooperative Extension Service in Richland Parish was complete by the time of the recovery from the depression in 1937. Assistant Home Demonstration Agents had been added to help the schools and other youth work. Assistant and/or Associate Home Demonstration Agents had been added to help the Assistant County Agent with 4-H clubs in school and other youth work. Assistant and/or Associate Home Demonstration agents serving in Richland Parish in the capacity were: Louise Lee 1922-1925; Louise Johnson Butler 1935; Frances St. Martin 1935-1936; Maxine E. Reeves 1941-1943; Naomi White 1942-1943; Mary Ella Sims Blackston 1942-1945; Fredessa S. Payne 1944-1947; Pearl L. Floyd 1945-1947; Robbie Lee Cox 1948-1950; Dorothy Coleman 1947-1950; Hilda Rockett Branch 1950-1951; Barbara Gwin 1951-1952; Margie Truly 1952-1954; Jo Anne DeWitt Shelton 1955-1957; Dorothy Lee Russell 1957-1960; Marjorie G. Johnson 1960-1962; Claudia Eubanks 1962; Martha Stockstill 1962-1966; Shirley B. Johnson 1967-1968; Linda Cottingham 1968 until the present.

Rapid changes have been made in agriculture in the past 20 years which were brought about by complete mechanization of farms, use of agricultural chemicals to control weeds and grass, extensive of insecticides, fertilization and soil testing.

Some of the tried and true methods used by Extension in the beginning are still being used today. A new method, Farm and Home Development, was added in 1954 which provided more intensive management of farm and home resources. Sidney Reech, Jr. headed this phase of work from the beginning until 1965 when he was succeeded by Billy Joe Watkins. With these rapid changes, the Agricultural Extension staff began looking ahead to the future, and in 1953 a Long Range Program Planning Committee was formed. This was later known as the Richland Parish Advisory Committee, but in recent years has come to be known as the Richland Parish Advisory Council with committees on all phases of Agriculture, Home Economics, Youth Work and Community and Resource Development. These committees are representative men, women and youth leaders from all areas of the parish. The purpose of these committees is to advise and counsel the Agricultural Extension staff in assembling basic facts in regard to the parish situation and developing priorities in regard to major problems, needs and/or interests.

A five year projected development program aimed at bolstering Louisiana economy was instigated in 1967. The “GIANT STEP” program was initiated by the entire State Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service on January 19, 1968. Richland Parish launched this program February 13, 1968. It’s goals are to:

¨Bolster Agricultural gross income by 50% by 1972;

¨Strengthen family life as an essential requirement for continued economic, social and cultural progress;

¨Assist communities in community and resource development in providing greater economic and cultural opportunities in their environment;

¨Extend educational, training and character building benefits in 4-H Club work;

¨Assure that the Cooperative Extension program and all its programs are made fully available to all groups;

¨Help move forward in a program of broad scale improvement in economic, social and cultural life.

The Richland Parish Extension Service is now staffed by Basil Doles, County Agent and Parish Chairman; Mrs. Hazel W. Fusilier, Home Economics; Billy Joe Watkins, Farm and Home Development; Clifton A. Dry, 4-H club work; Linda Cottingham, 4-H club work; Leodrey Williams, Community and Resource Development; and Jesse Holder, Soils and Horticulture.

The changes and programs made in all phases of Agricultural Extension Service could never have been accomplished by the staff members alone without the contributions of men, women and youth leaders throughout the years and without the continued support of the governing bodies. Richland Parish School Board and Police Jury. Yes, you who have had any part in Extension activities through the years deserve much of the credit for the contribution Richland Parish Extension Service has contributed to the development of Richland Parish.

Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture

Top