100 Years of Extension

In 1935, a statewide manure conservation program taught farmers how to make the most of their manure.  As the size of Vermont dairies grew, Extension emphasized managing manure to prevent runoff.  Many more photographs in the free publication: 100 Years of UVM Extension in Pictures (pdf)

100 Years of UVM Extension: 1913 - 2013

UVM Extension started on February 15, 1913, when the Vermont Legislature passed an act that appropriated funds "solely for the work in agricultural extension." Since that day, UVM Extension has been helping individuals and communities put research-based knowledge to work.

In the early days, much of our work was helping farmers increase their crop yields and productivity through the use of fertilizers and machinery, and building 4-H youth education programs. Today, Extension is educating low-income families how to prepare nutritious meals on a limited budget, teaching youth life skills through 4-H, providing marketing and business planning services to farmers, and working with producers, distributors and retailers to promote a local foods system.  Much has changed over the years but one thing has not: our commitment to working with the people in Vermont to strengthen families, communities, and our working landscape.

Extension Profiles & Oral History

Extension Profiles
Extension's strength has always been its people and the relationship they have with Vermonters. The stories below profile some of the men and women who devoted their lives to advancing the mission of the land-grant university.

I saw my role as trying to help them to help themselves...
- Lucien Paquette, Addison County Agricultural Agent, 1940-1982

Henry Atherton | Professor of Animal Science and UVM Extension Dairy Specialist, 1953 - 1989

Henry Atherton

Few people have had such influence on the dairy industry as Dr. Henry V. Atherton, who served as Extension Dairy Specialist and faculty member of the UVM Department of Animal Sciences from 1953 to 1989.

Raised in the small town of Glover in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, Henry was involved in agriculture from an early age. His chicken projects in 4-H taught him the value of good record-keeping, and the family farm, consisting of four cows, a couple of pigs, and a large vegetable garden kept the family going during the Depression. As Henry recalls "we had everything but money."

When Henry began his career at the University of Vermont in 1953, the dairy industry was going through a transformation that was so large in size and scope that Henry likened it to the Industrial Revolution. In the spring of 1953 Hood and Borden had announced that as of September 1 they were going to switch to bulk tanks. Henry recalls "It was total chaos. As far as the farmers were concerned it meant new milk houses, roads for the trucks to get into the milk houses, and this whole idea of milk movement." On top of this, "the wartime economies on rubber and gasoline meant that milk was picked up every other day rather than day by day as it had been."

As a result of this new technology, hundreds of dairy farmers were forced out of business. Those who remained faced significant challenges. There was little research available on cold tolerant bacteria, milk flavor, and shelf life. "So literally my career developed around bulk tanks... helping the farmers cope with this new phenomenon," Atherton noted.

Because UVM didn't have a bulk tank of its own Henry would ride around with a milk collector taking samples from farmers' bulk tanks and bringing them back to the lab for testing. Little was known then about psychotrophs, the cold tolerant bacteria that proliferated in bulk tanks and ruined milk by the time it arrived in city markets such as Boston. "As it turns out I had done my PhD at Penn State on cold temperature bacteria, so I guess I was one of the pioneers really of adapting that study of the effect of the so-called psychotrophs."

Along with UVM colleague Alec Bradfield and building on the work of Bradfield's friend Dr. C. K. Johns in Ottawa, Henry developed a protocol for measuring the preliminary incubation rates of cold tolerant bacteria. This protocol is still in use today and is used to evaluate sanitation practices on a farm and used by processors to reward farmers with low PI counts. In addition to studies on bacteria Henry also did studies on the impact of bulk tanks on milk flavor and shelf life. "We were dealing with a subject that was totally foreign to traditional farmers, field hands and the regulatory people. None of them had a handle on this so we did a lot of work during those first years."

Literally my career developed around bulk tanks and helping the farmers cope with this new phenomenon...

Listen to the Interview with Henry Atherton:

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Full Interview

Mary Carlson | State 4-H Leader, 1968-2002

Mary Carlson

From 1968 to 2002, Mary Carlson lived and breathed the ideals of 4-H Positive Youth Development while employed at UVM Extension. From the beginning, Mary understood that 4-H was much more than showing dairy cattle or horses at state fairs, it was about building the citizens of tomorrow.

Mary also was convinced of the need for youth to participate in leadership activities, and that is why instead of planning Teen Congress herself, she let the teens take the lead. That is also why she encouraged a shy, 14-year-old boy to DJ at the biggest Teen event of the year, in spite of her own reservations. That young DJ, Derrick Cram, now owns and operates one of the largest DJ companies in New England. As Derrick noted, "I am successful today because Mary Carlson gave me a chance, taught me to work hard and believe in myself." He is just one of the thousands of young men and women Mary touched in her 34-year career with UVM Extension, and each one could tell a different story about how she helped them grow up to be successful adults.

I am successful today because Mary Carlson gave me a chance, taught me to work hard and believe in myself...

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John Page | Bennington County Agricultural Agent, 1952 - 1986

John Page

From 1952 to 1986, John Page was known as "Mr. Agriculture" in southern Vermont, and Bennington County in particular. His 34 years as a county agricultural agent was unrivaled in its scope and depth. His area of expertise was agronomy, but he knew as much about human behavior as he did about birdsfoot trefoil.

When John took over as county agricultural agent in Bennington, his predecessor, Harry Mitiguy, sat him down and gave him some advice. He said that teaching farmers new things wouldn't be a problem. "Your problem," he said, is going to be to get farmers to change habits that are wrong and that are hurting them." John took this advice to heart, and became famous for his unorthodox methods, like the time he confiscated a farmer's milking machine after telling the farmer repeatedly that too much milking was giving his cows mastitis. John could get away with things like that because the farmer knew him, and he knew that John was doing it for his own good. The farmer may not have liked it, but as one colleague pointed out "there are many farmers today that attribute their good fortune and good business sense to John's fiery temper and persistence."

It took a bull to knock some sense into him...

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Lucien Paquette | Addison County Agricultural Agent, 1940 - 1982

Lucien Paquette

Lucien Paquette was born and raised on a farm in Craftsbury, Vermont. He graduated from Craftsbury Senior High School in 1935, and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Vermont in 1940. Upon graduation Paquette went to work as a UVM Grand Isle County Extension Agent in agriculture and youth.

In 1946, Lucien became the UVM Addison County Extension Agent in Agriculture, and served as the Superintendant of the UVM Morgan Horse Farm through most of the 1950s. He retired in 1982.

Paquette is also the founder of the Addison County Fair & Field Days, which began in 1948 on a farm on East Munger Street in Middlebury. Field Days has been Paquette's passion, and under his leadership during the past 62 years the annual exposition has grown to be the largest agricultural fair in the state of Vermont.

I saw my role as trying to help them to help themselves...

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Winston Arthur Way | Agronomist, 1954 - 1986

 Winston Arthur Way

Winston Arthur Way, more commonly known as Win Way by his friends and audiences throughout Vermont, New England, and Quebec, grew up in North Hero, where his father and grandfather ran the Irving House and a small diversified farm. It was on the farm where Win gained his early interest in agriculture, plants and soils, but it was in Burma, India and China, during World War II, where he found his calling as a soil scientist and educator.

He attended the New York State University of Forestry at Syracuse University and received a B.S. in Forestry in 1950. In 1951, Win received a M.S. in Agronomy at the University of Vermont and for the next four years worked as an Instructor and Assistant Research Agronomist at UVM. In 1954, Win became the UVM Extension Agronomist working in the Agronomy Department (now the Plant and Soil Science Department) for the next 32 years when he retired in 1986.

These are the broad strokes of Win's career, but to understand this remarkable man and his impact on agriculture in Vermont consider the advice he gave young people looking for vocations: "I believe that success depends on a complete immersion in one's job, blending personal and professional life." For those who knew him, Win was completely immersed in his job, and one of the most prolific authors in Extension. He never turned down a speaking engagement (he thought it was bad public relations), and during his career he gave 3,000 presentations to farmers, gardeners, and Extension agents, an average of almost 100 a year. In addition, he did 500 shows on Across the Fence, including 60 shows in one year; 1,200 radio programs, and produced over 70,000 slides that he used in various programs. For many people in Vermont, Win Way was the face of UVM Extension.

Win was a great believer in the Land Grant mission of doing research that benefited farmers and helping to implement new practices that proved better than the old. He was also a very independent thinker. He spurned memberships in organizations to preserve his academic freedom, noting "I would rather be independent so as not to offend others of my Vermont audience." He was considered a contrarian by some, and dangerous by others, perhaps because he asked tough questions of himself and others. In a personal essay written 23 years after his retirement, he noted that "greater labor efficiencies come about because of economies of scale," but noted these advances come with a cost, including greater use and waste of energy, greater pollution of air, and destruction of wildlife.

In addition to his service to Vermont farmers and citizens through UVM Extension, Win made many contributions to the Department of Plant and Soil Science, and the College of Agriculture as well. Win was a strong, early supporter of soil testing and was instrumental in getting the Vermont soil testing program under way. From the Win Way Wheel, a device he made to generate fertilizer recommendations, to writing the logic for the first computerized soil testing program, Win's grasp of soil fertility resulted in immense savings to farmers throughout the state, as well as a significant reduction of fertilizers, at a time when chemicals were overused in farming practices.

Win was also a pioneer in the field of sustainable agriculture. His experiences in Asia during World War II gave him a first-hand understanding of poverty, world hunger, and the blatant disregard for natural resources. Even in the early days, he was a leader in environmental protection before it was popular. He also recognized and advocated for the need for small farms and locally produced food even before the term "Food Systems" or "Farm to Plate" existed. This was at a time when most universities considered organic farming a cult and did not take it very seriously. But Win persisted by inviting out-of-state organic farmers to give talks at UVM, and he also helped in the early efforts of the Vermont Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. In recognition of his work NOFA invited him to give the keynote address at their 1976 conference, and presented him with the first Honorary Award, given to the person who had done the most to promote organic agriculture in New England.

For Win the question was, were the farmers better off today than they were 100 years ago. That is what he cared about.

Sustainable is not going to be sustainable according to the lifestyle we have now...

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Share Your StoryDo You Have a UVM Extension Experience?

We are collecting memories of UVM Extension over the years and want to hear from you! Share your favorite story with us here - be it a funny experience, a learning opportunity, valuable assistance received, or something else...

Share Your Stories


Logo - 100 years of Smith-Lever ActIn 2014, we celebrated the Smith-Lever Act which established the Cooperative Extension Service, a unique educational partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the nation's land-grant universities that extends research-based knowledge through a state-by-state network of extension educators.

For 100 years, the Smith-Lever Act has stimulated innovative research and vital educational programs for youth and adults through progressive information delivery systems that improved lives and shaped a nation. Join us as we celebrate 100 years of extending knowledge and changing lives.