1.1 Vision and Mission
1.2 Historical Background
1.3 Philosophy
1.4 Funding
1.5 Memorandum of Agreement and Understanding
1.6 Organizational Structure

1.1 Vision and Mission

Through a strategic planning process involving the general public, advisory council members and Extension faculty and staff, the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service established the following shared vision and statement of its mission:


The Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service is the educational resource for all Kentuckians that serves as a catalyst to build better communities and improve quality of life.


The Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serves as a link between the counties of the Commonwealth and the State's land grant universities to help people improve their lives through an educational process focusing on their issues and needs. We emphasize:

  • valuing diversity and capitalizing on its potential to strengthen programs;
  • being locally-driven, flexible, and responsive;
  • identifying and supporting high priority statewide programming thrusts;
  • educating people to solve problems, make decisions, and embrace change;
  • applying knowledge and research-based information;
  • accomplishing work through collaboration, volunteerism, and leadership development;
  • fostering an empowered and contributing people;
  • developing youth, adults, families, and communities; and
  • fostering effective lifelong use of personal and natural resources.


1.2 Historical Background

Morrill Act of 1862

In the mid 1800s, education typically ended after a few years of schooling. There was a need to extend the benefits of education to the great majority of Americans, especially to rural families, whose contributions to the entire nation were indispensable. A group of visionary congressmen led by Justin Morrill of Vermont proposed a College Land Bill to develop a different type of college, a college which was devoted to educating the people whose lives would not be spent in the professions, but in the nation’s businesses and trades.

After half a century of increasing pressure from agricultural leaders and in the midst of the chaos of the Civil War, Congress passed the Morrill Act. With President Lincoln’s signature on July 2, 1862, the Act created a national system of land-grant colleges. In the language of the Act the states were to establish:

 …at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts… In order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.

Hatch Act of 1887

As Land Grant Colleges grew, they gradually realized that teaching “scientific agriculture” required an intellectual foundation based on a strong research program. Agricultural experiment stations had operated successfully in Europe for almost 50 years. Gradually experiment stations were established across the U.S. As the need and potential value of the experiment stations were recognized, federal support grew. In 1887 passage of the Hatch Act created agricultural experiment stations:

…to conduct original and other researches (sic), investigations, and experiments bearing directly on and contributing to the establishment and maintenance of a permanent and effective agricultural industry of the United States… and such investigations as have for their purpose the development and improvement of the rural home and rural life and the maximum contribution by agriculture to the welfare of the consumer.

Second Morrill Act of 1890

As the endowments from the 1862 Morrill Act proved inadequate, Justin Morrill tried to increase them. In 1890, he was finally successful and the second Morrill Act was signed into law. It provided for “the more complete endowment and maintenance of colleges for the benefit of agriculture and the mechanic arts.” Additionally, the 1890 Morrill Act included a provision that led to the creation of 17 predominantly black land-grant colleges in the southern states. States that established separate institutions for white and black students were in compliance with the act if they appropriated funds equitably between the separate institutions. In effect, the Morrill Act of 1890 accomplished for black citizens of the South what the first act of 1862 had accomplished for white citizens. Kentucky State University is Kentucky’s 1890 Institution which provides teaching, research and extension functions to the people of Kentucky and works in concert with the 1862 land grant institution, the University of Kentucky.

Smith-Lever Act of 1914

As scientific research generated new knowledge in the late 1800s, how to disseminate this knowledge and apply it to agricultural or societal conditions became a major concern. Several states set up their own systems of providing this new information to the citizenry. In the early 1900s, USDA employed field agents to work with local farmers and citizens. In 1910, Kentucky formed an Extension Service and joined other states in urging Congress to create a nationwide system to extend education from the land grant colleges to the people of the states. In 1914, Congress responded to this need and enacted the Smith-Lever Act, providing for a comprehensive Extension education program in each state. The language of the original act called for Extension to:

. . . aid in diffusing among the people of the United States useful and practical information on subjects related to agriculture and home economics, and to encourage the application of the same.

A key provision of the Smith-Lever Act provided continued strength and stability by a cooperative partnership between three levels of government--federal, state, and county. The Commonwealth of Kentucky officially joined this three-way partnership when, in 1916, the Kentucky General Assembly enacted legislation (KRS-164.110) providing:

All Acts of the General Assembly giving assent to Acts of Congress providing aid for ... Agricultural Extension and experiment station work, shall, unless heretofore repealed, remain in force and apply to the University of Kentucky...

The land-grant system was then complete. Its Extension arm firmly supported by a cooperative state and federal funding procedure and a relationship that, over time, has changed and adapted but remains intact. Programs have changed as societal needs have changed, yet Extension’s efforts continue to provide a wide range of educational programs responding to the diverse needs of modern society. 


1.3 Philosophy

The Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service is the result of a unique cooperative agreement between the University of Kentucky, Kentucky State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and each Kentucky County. It provides lifelong, continuing education for the people of the Commonwealth. In carrying out this responsibility, the Cooperative Extension Service is guided by the principle of helping people to help themselves. The process of Extension education involves working with people and not for them. Extension joins with people in helping them to identify needs, problems, and opportunities; study their resources; and arrive at desirable courses of action in line with their desires, resources and abilities.

Extension’s strength is the involvement of people in the process of planning, developing, and carrying out programs that meet their needs. Since the beginning of Extension, it has been assumed that people must be reached where they are--in terms of their level of interest and understanding. Extension’s focus on people is through programs in which self-improvement is encouraged.

Educational changes in people are a prerequisite to progress in a democratic society. The philosophy of Extension is that people be assisted within a democratic framework to achieve knowledge and progress. Cooperative Extension work is education for action--action by individuals--action by groups. It is education in which, through participation, individuals develop their own abilities in problem-solving and improve leadership skills for greater community service.

Thus, the primary focus of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service is to assist people to identify problems and their solutions through both the delivery of new knowledge and assistance in its implementation. To accomplish this, Extension arranges for significant involvement of the public in planning and conducting programs, thereby transferring relevant technology and information to the general public.


1.4 Funding

The Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service is cooperatively funded by federal, state and local governments. The federal government's support for Extension is provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As a part of the University of Kentucky, state funds are channeled through the University budget, and most local support for Extension is provided either by means of an Extension District (KRS 164.605-675) or through the county fiscal court. Other program support monies may be secured through other local sources, grants or contracts.


1.5 Memorandum of Agreement and Understanding

A Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperative Agreement between the University of Kentucky as a land-grant university and the USDA has been the basis on which Cooperative Extension work has been conducted since the passage of the Smith-Lever Act. The Director of Extension is appointed by the President of the University with the concurrence of the Secretary of Agriculture to administer Cooperative Extension Service programs.


1.6 Organizational Structure

The Cooperative Extension Service is an integral part of the University of Kentucky. It is the unit established to provide a link between the university and each of the 120 counties. The University's efforts in research, instruction, and outreach are brought together for all citizens in the Commonwealth.

The Cooperative Extension Service has a close and mutually supportive relationship with the research, instruction, and regulatory service components of the College of Agriculture. All four promote the mutual goal of improving Kentucky’s citizenry. The Experiment Station is a source of new technology generated through continuous research. This new technology becomes a substance for Extension programs and classroom instruction. Problems identified by Extension field staff provide the basis for many new and valuable research projects.

Kentucky’s two land-grant institutions, the University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University, work together to provide a single comprehensive Extension program. The Memorandum of Understanding between the universities and the USDA provides for:

  • The mutual development of a single comprehensive program of Extension work for the state.
  • The mutual development of a Plan of Work.
  • The necessary steps to affect a joint Extension program at the county, area, regional and state levels.

Kentucky State University Extension employees and University of Kentucky Extension employees often work out of the same County Extension Office. State Extension Specialists located at Kentucky State University are available to University of Kentucky Extension employees just as Extension Specialists located at the University of Kentucky are available to Kentucky State Extension employees.

Internal Organization and Structure

The various organizational components of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and their relationships are illustrated by this organizational chart of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

A general description of the primary responsibilities of each aspect provides an additional understanding of the organizational structure. Visit our College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Administrative Team, Cooperative Extension Administration Team, as well as Departments and Units, Area Extension Directors, and Field Staff.

Dean, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

This position holds integrated administrative responsibilities for research, instruction, and extension.  The Dean oversees the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service.

Associate Dean for Extension and Director of Extension

The Associate Dean and Director is responsible for overall administration of Extension programs throughout the state on a daily basis. Ultimately all Extension employees report directly or indirectly to the Director.

Director, Extension Engagement and Administrative Initiatives

This position provides statewide leadership and coordination for Extension engagement partnerships and collaborations; leads and facilitates Extension administrative projects, initiatives, and meetings; and coordinates state level advisory groups and council development training.

Director, Extension Business Operations

This position oversees all business operations for Extension, including state and Federal budget management, county financial operations and budget development, and oversight and guidance for extramurally funded projects.

Director, Program & Staff Development

This position provides statewide direction for program development, implementation, evaluation;  orientation and training of Extension professionals; and reporting and accountability.

Director, Urban Extension

This position supports urban agents and communities with professional and leadership development opportunities. In addition, serves as state urban coordinator in Southern Region related programming and events. 

 Director, Workforce and Equity Initiatives

This position provides statewide direction and programming for workforce development, diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility for the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Director, Extension Human Resources

This position is responsible for directing recruitment, selection, placement and orientation of Extension Agents. The director provides leadership to personnel policy development and civil rights compliance.

Director, Community & Economic Development

This position is responsible for leading engagement and research for economic development, leadership development, community health, and community design throughout the state.

Assistant Directors for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Family and Consumer Sciences, and 4‑­H Youth Development

Provide overall leadership for Extension programs throughout the state in the fields of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, and 4‑H youth development. Assisting in the development of these programs are Extension Specialists in subject matter roles.   

Regional Extension Directors

For administrative purposes, the University of Kentucky Extension Service is divided into three regions--each including eight areas. Regional Extension Directors provided leadership and oversight for county operations and report to the Director. Major job responsibilities include:

  • Employee management and development;
  • Budget and finance;
  • Governmental and public relations;
  • Policy and procedure leadership; and
  • Communications, facilitation, collaboration, and teamwork.

Area Extension Directors

Area Extension Directors provide county focused management and leadership for designated areas. Major job responsibilities include:

  • Employee management and development;
  • Financial and public accountability;
  • Program development;
  • Interaction with councils and boards; and
  • Communication, facilitation, collaboration, and teamwork.

Department Chairs

The College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and the School of Human Environmental Sciences includes the following subject matter departments: Agricultural Economics, Animal & Food Sciences, Biosystems & Agricultural Engineering, Community & Leadership Development, Dietetics and Human Nutrition, Entomology, Family Sciences, Forestry and Natural Resources, Horticulture, Landscape Architecture, Plant and Soil Sciences, Plant Pathology, Retailing and Tourism Management, and Veterinary Science.

Each department chair is responsible for the Extension, research, and instructional programs of the department.

State Specialists

More than 100 state specialists in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and the School of Human Environmental Sciences have, among other duties, the responsibility for:

  • providing assistance, support, and subject matter training for field staff;
  • developing Extension programs that respond to locally identified needs;
  • researching answers to questions submitted by county agents;
  • interpreting state, national and international data in their disciplinary fields; and
  • providing a direct and quick communicative link between county agents and each subject matter department.

State specialists are either housed within their respective departmental units and are administratively responsible to their respective department chairs or are housed within an Extension unit and are administratively responsible to an Assistant Director. All programs are coordinated with appropriate Assistant Directors.

Extension Associates

Extension Associates generally have statewide responsibilities related to program thrusts or national initiatives of broad public concern. They sometimes work across departmental and program lines and provide assistance and training to Extension Agents in their respective fields.

Area Staff Personnel

Area staff members may be specialists or agents in a subject matter or a program area such as Farm Business Analysis or the Nutrition Education Program. Their function is to provide technical assistance, support and coordination for program planning and implementation, and in-service training to county staff members. They provide assistance as requested by county agents or may initiate programs through county staff.

County Managers

County managers provide local management and leadership for a designated county. Major job responsibilities include:

  • Employee management and development;
  • Financial and public accountability;
  • Program development;
  • Interaction with councils and boards; and
  • Communication, facilitation, collaboration and teamwork

County Extension Agents

County Extension Agents comprise the largest number of personnel in the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Approximately 400 persons are County Extension Agents for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Family and Consumer Sciences, 4-H Youth Development, or Fine Arts.

Extension Assistants/Program Assistants

Extension Assistants/Program Assistants are assigned to work in a specific program (NEP, FCS, 4-H, ANR, Horticulture, etc.) and are typically under the supervision of County Extension Agents. In some cases, assistants may be supervised by an Area Extension Director, area agent or specialist. Technical assistance and in-service training are provided by the supervising agents and area or state specialists. Job descriptions for Extension Assistants/Program Assistants are found in the guidelines for the specific program in which the person is employed.

County Extension Staff Assistants

County Extension staff assistants are supervised by an Area Extension Director or county manager. Staff assistants are expected to assist in furthering the local Extension program through the performance of all the duties relating to an efficient office operation.