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This is the sixth in a series of articles on the history of the extension service in Owen County.
BY DORIS GILL and KIM STROHMEIER
In the late 1960s, the Kentucky Extension Service was converted to “bi-county” area work. The agent’s titles changed from county agent and home demonstration agent in 1965, to area extension agents. But in the early 1970s, due to the public’s negative response to the area-based system, the program returned to the traditional county-based system. The agent’s titles officially changed to county extension agents for agriculture and home economics.
David Gragg was county agent from Sept. 1965 to Dec. 1967. When he resigned, he was replaced by William Green who served from 1968 to 1973. He was replaced by Larry Reber who served from Oct. 1973 to March 1979.
In the spring of 1965, the alfalfa weevil was found in Owen County fields. Approximately 2,500 acres were sprayed, using boom-type spray rigs hastily imported into the county. Another 1,000 acres were cut early.
Most damage was scattered, but the following year, the weevil laid waste to 75 percent of the first crop and much of the second. Due to the weevil problem, Owen County alfalfa acreage declined from 8,500 acres in 1965 to a low of 2,900 acres in 1975. At that time, due to some new varieties that were considered weevil resistant and some new chemical controls, the acreage decline was reversed and by 1978, the acreage had increased to 3,500 acres.
Extension again promoted the use of alfalfa both as a superior feed and also a potential cash enterprise. Agent Reber reported that alfalfa was “well suited to our climate and soil conditions, showing excellent income potential and if farm income is increased by 15 percent, 2 million dollars or more will be added to the economy of our county.”
Agents stressed forage improvement to encourage farmers to be more self sufficient in feed. Agent Green set up a display at the 1969 Owen County Fair entitled, “Forage, Kentucky’s 200 Million Dollar Crop.”
Agent Green provided assistance with several groups with landscaping projects, such as planting crab apple trees and junipers along one entrance to town (Chamber of Commerce), landscaping the courthouse lawn (Woman’s Club) and a memorial garden (Christian Church). He also worked with individuals needing specialized help.
An article appeared in the “Kentucky Farmer” in 1969 about Ed Ayres, an Owen County walnut producer.
“No-till” corn was introduced in Owen County in the spring of 1970. From no acres in 1969, 250 acres were planted in 1970, and four planters were available. By 1971, there were 10 planters in the county and 450 acres of no-till corn.
The Southern Leaf Blight hit Owen County farmers very hard in 1971. Every farm had some damage, with some fields a total loss.
Tobacco farmers continued to support the tobacco price support program. Referendums were held every three years to determine whether or not to continue the program. Referendums results in the county were well over 95 percent.
In 1969. Billy Karsner raised a research test plot of tobacco which included 14 varieties of tobacco.
Concern for the environment was expressed about residues left by chlorinated hydrocarbons. Sales of DDT, Chlordan and Aldrin decreased, while Diazinon and Sevin sales increased.
On April 3, 1974, 16 tobacco barns were destroyed by a tornado and high winds, causing a serious shortage of barn space for housing tobacco. Agent Reber worked with the growers to plan, remodel or rebuild their barns.
In 1978, 84 bale boxes were built by the vo-ag department at the high school. They retained three and sold three to Farm Bureau, and both made bale boxes available for loan to farmers.
In 1972, a farm supply store in Gratz burned, resulting in Agent Green being asked by the local fire chiefs to locate and present materials on fires involving pesticides. The presentation was made to the Owenton and Owen County Fire Departments. A second store burned in Owenton the same year, with some danger from fumes, runoff and explosions. The fire departments, which handled the situation very well, were contacted about sharing the information at the state fire school.
Martha Lee Stamper continued to serve as home agent. During the period of area extension work, she served with the home economics program in Owen and Grant counties, and Nancy Eckler, Grant County Home Agent, worked with the 4-H program in both counties.
In 1972, the agents and specialist from the agricultural engineering and home economics departments worked with the historical society in renovating their building.
For many years all extension agents had worked cooperatively with the Owen County Fair Board. The agents, along with extension agricultural engineers, assisted the fair board in developing a master plan for the development of their new grounds. In 1974 they moved to the new fairgrounds. The new exhibit building was built and development of the grounds began.
Owen County celebrated its Sesqui-centennial (150 years) in July 1969, lasting 10 days. “Old-time” games were held for all county youth, with 75 young people participating in a pie-eating contest, a greased pig chase, greased pole climb, bubble gum blowing contest, frog jump, turtle race and a hog-calling contest. The Owen County Homemakers had an “old-fashioned style show” with 40 men, women and children modeling. An ice cream social was held and a square dance on the courthouse square.
In 1973, Owen County was in the process of building a new building to house the county library. Various clubs and organizations supported the new building program, which also received county, state and federal funds. The Homemaker clubs had money-making projects and contributed to the library fund.
In June 1974 the extension service conducted its first food and nutrition camp at the Owen County Elementary School. 40 youngsters, ages 9-13 attended. Activities included a group sing, classes in summer safety, super snacks and they participated in a nature hunt and physical fitness games, magic tricks and crafts. The camp was held again in subsequent years.
In 1967, Agent Stamper noted, “Northern Kentucky has one physician to 2,512 persons. It is becoming more difficult to obtain the services of a doctor. With increased life span, a greater number of elderly people will be requiring home care.” Several homemaker programs were given on subjects ranging from first aid caring for the sick in the home, to estate planning, property rights, social security-Medicare and home safety. Others included consumer buying and pollution – effect on life and environment and its control.
Around the mid 1960s, more women began to enter the workplace. At the same time they were faced with the continual changes required to manage their homes. There was more money to manage, more goods and services available, better housing facilities, more credit available, more laws to abide by and more places to go. The extension service provided coping skills to meet the demands that these changing patterns of family living made on the family unit. Time and home business management were studied along with the more traditional homemaker skills.
Agent Stamper started a bi-monthly newsletter called the “Homenoter” in 1973, which was mailed to all Homemaker Club members. Its purpose was to inform members of dates and meetings, give up to date information and included timely recipes for each season of the year.
From 1974-76, the Owen County Homemakers were sponsors of the bicentennial arts and crafts festival, held in July. From three to four various activities were held and crafts persons displayed and sold their wares around the courthouse square. Continuous entertainment was provided by local musicians and an old-fashioned ice cream supper was included. Owen County received the Bicentennial American Revolution Award, presented to counties who qualified, by the State Bicentennial Commission.
The 1976 celebration was called a “Homecoming Festival” and was held at the elementary and high schools. It was a climax to the bicentennial celebration and included a “Country Village” with many items of yesteryear displayed in the store, a photography shop displaying pictures of county residents and many homemakers helping throughout the celebration wherever needed.
At an annual meeting of the homemaker’s organization in 1975, members were recognized for perfect attendance. Mrs. Albert Karsner, of the Monterey Club, received her 30 year pin; Mrs. Marie Vannarsdall, a 25 year pin and Mrs. Kenneth Greene, a 20 year pin.
County homemaker presidents during this period were Mrs. C.C. Arnold, Mrs. Alva Poe, Mrs. Bradford Kemper, Mrs. James Haydon, Mrs. Jack Welch and Mrs. Bobby Webster.
Marie Vannarsdall was elected to the state extension council in 1975.
In April 1973, a group of 4-H Council members and Agent Stamper met with the fiscal court to discuss hiring a third agent for 4-H. The court voted to do this and the position was established in July. Dallas Stafford was hired as Owen County’s first extension agent for 4-H. He served until March 1978, and Maribeth Prager replaced him in July 1978.
The county 4-H council continued to provide strong leadership to the 4-H program. The 4-H Spring Rally, Fashion Revue, Talent Show and Speech and Demonstration Contest continued to have strong county support.
The council continued to recognize outstanding 4-H leaders. From 1966 to 1972 outstanding council members were Herschel Coates, O.V. Jones, Mary Bourne Welch, David Wattenbarger, Rita Ann Powers, Mrs. William Green and Ann Bush. Outstanding project and club leaders included Rev. F.E. Webster, Cordelia Sparrow, Mrs. George Vance, Mrs. H.T. Riley, Mrs. Sanford Miller, Cindy Stamper and Mrs. Roscoe Martin. In 1968, Mrs. Dorman Cull was recognized as the outstanding 4-H leader of the year in Kentucky.
Four Owen 4-H members went on a People-to-People Tour of eastern and western Europe in 1966. They were Roger Sparrow, George Thornton, Reba Reed and Billye Susan Stamper. Cindy Stamper went on the same tour in 1970.
The fashion revue continued to be one of the most popular 4-H programs in the county. Janice Vance and Linda Montague were both county winners for four years each. Other county winners in the senior division were Linda Gaines, Donna Butts, Anne Yancey, Ann Montague, Marianne Walker and Teena Carver. These senior champions along with Jenny Allnutt, Margo Smither and Emily Ayres, competed in the State Fashion Revue. Junior champions were Joy Ballard, Debbie Towles, Robin Beckham, Debbie Keith, Teena Carver, Sharon Gaines, Suzanne Arnold and Raejean Perkins. In 1974, Margo Smither was selected as a state fashion revue champion.
In 1968, money from the estate of Edger Mason was left to the 4-H Council for the purpose of recognizing outstanding 4-H youth. The 4-H Council matched the funds and starting at the 1968 county fair, an outstanding 4-H boy and girl were recognized. These outstanding youth were Janice Vance and Danny Hamilton in 1968; Cindy Stamper and Steve Davis, 1969; Pam Hawkins and Jim Lynn, 1970; Linda Montague and Lonnie Davis, 1971; Elizabeth Wyatt and Steve Burgan, 1972; Emily Ayres and Jim Arnold, 1973; Dawn McDonald and Joe Arnold, 1974; Steve Parker and Ann Montague, 1975; Patiricia Haines and Eddie Arnold, 1976; Marianne Walker and Roger Perkins, 1977 and Julia Poe and Maurice Chappell, 1978.
Other students won recognition in state events. Jackie Wright in 1969, Kemp Martin in 1970 and Marc Clifton in 1972 and Tommy Karsner in 1976 were champions in classes in the state fair horse show. In 1971, Vicki Atha was the overall champion in the State Talk Meet. Steve Davis was champion in the State Tractor Operators Contest. Linda Montague was the State Fair Clothing Champion and Emily Ayres was a State Demonstration Champion. In 1973, Ann Yancey was the State Fair Clothing Champion. In 1974, Jim Arnold was awarded the State Entomology Champion and Joe Arnold repeated the honors in 1976. In 1977, Eddie Arnold won the 4-H Record Judging in photography and was awarded a trip to the National 4-H Congress in Chicago. In 1977 Suzanne Arnold was the State Fair Grand Champion in foods.
In 1976, the 4-H Council presented to the News-Herald a Meritorious Service Award for their courage coverage of 4-H events. The Owen County Elementary School was presented the same award in 1977.
In 1970, former Owen Agent Conrad Feltner was named as Assistant Director for 4-H Extension Programs for the state of Kentucky by UK College of Agriculture Dean Charles Barnhart.
In 1977, a 4-H Dairy Club was organized with 15 members and eight parents actively involved in the program. Monthly meetings, farm demonstrations, tours, shows and clinics were scheduled activities. A concrete wash rack, tie rail and water faucet were constructed by members and parents to assist in grooming for the open dairy shows at the county fair.
In 1977, the Owen County Extension Council took advantage of a recently enacted state law that allowed extension districts to be formed. The extension district board was to be responsible for providing adequate funding for the county extension program. The first district board members were A.W. Smither, Kenny Suter, Don Stewart, Nila Marksberry, Mary Bourne Welch and Marie Vannarsdall.