The Cooperative Extension Service is a nationwide educational program started by the United States Cooperative Extension Offices Department of Agriculture (USDA). National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) oversees the program. Information is disseminated through universities to the general public. Although they provide information on food, the environment and other topics, for our purposes we are most interested in their agricultural offerings.
Every state and territory has a central office and a network of local, regional or county offices. These offices are overseen by experts.
Cooperative extension offices offer master gardener classes and a ton of gardening information and classes, both online and on-site.
The services I use the most are the disease diagnostic and soil testing labs. Most extensions accept soil samples through the mail and, for a nominal cost — sometimes free — will test pH, test for nutrient deficiencies and other items.
Take a few minutes to check out your region’s cooperative extension service. I’ve made it easy for you by compiling a list of the state offices. Their websites link to their various county or regional offices.
Compiled by: M.L. Dewey