Purdue Extension Elkhart County celebrates 100 years of community education

Purdue Extension Elkhart County oversees programs like 4-H Elkhart County and Michiana Master Gardeners. 

Posted on May 19, 2014 at 6:53 p.m.

Want to take a cheese-making workshop, join 4-H or become a master gardener

Purdue Extension Elkhart County has got you covered.

This year the extension office is celebrating the centennial anniversary of the Cooperative Extension System. It established a national network of offices that educate communities in agriculture, health science and economic development, among other topics.

Since Elkhart County’s office was established in 1913, some of its programs have become local household names.

“We’re the backbone of informal education, whether it be with youth or with adults,” said Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross, director of Purdue Extension Elkhart County.

Among the office’s most well-known programs is Elkhart County 4-H. Just this year, more than 3,000 children have enrolled, Lienhart-Cross said.

She’s worked for Purdue Extension for nearly 40 years, overseeing programs and teaching classes. She just wrapped up a course on dining with diabetes.

Other extension office programs include Michiana Master Gardeners and Elkhart County Extension Homemakers.

It was through Purdue Extension that Elkhart County was chosen as one of two Indiana counties to pilot the “Rebuilding Your Local Food System” program. The study will explore local food needs and what systems are needed to meet them.

So how does the system work?

The Cooperative Extension Service is a network of colleges, universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In Indiana, Purdue University hosts offices in each county. Their extension service program areas are: agriculture and natural resources; health and human sciences; economic and community development; and 4-H youth development.

Every five years or so, Purdue’s office develops a guideline of initiatives for counties to build their programs around.

Extension offices are funded by a combination of federal, state and county dollars. Every state has an extension service, but Indiana’s is among the best, Lienhart-Cross said.

“Indiana is probably in the top five in that we've been able to maintain our county offices, where Illinois has lost county offices and gone to regional. It’s a real strength that we have the county’s support,” she said.

For more information about Purdue Extension Elkhart County, visit www.extension.purdue.edu/ELKHART.

Purdue Extension Elkhart County is at the county fairgrounds at 17746 C.R. 34, Goshen.


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