NC State Extension Publications


  1. History
  2. Mission
  3. Vision
  4. Organization
  5. Annual Impact
  6. Funding Sources

N.C. Cooperative Extension is a collaborative effort between the state’s land-grant universities—North Carolina State University (NC State) and North Carolina A&T State University (NC A&T)—and county and tribal governments to bring research-based knowledge to citizens in communities throughout the state. The respective university Extension organizations—the Cooperative Extension Program at NC A&T and NC State Extension—have partnered to serve the state since 1914.

A. History

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Master GardenerSM volunteers (MGVs) are part of a distinctively American tradition of education that stretches back to the 19th century. In the late 1800s, state and national leaders recognized the need to help working-class people gain knowledge to improve their lives. Senator Justin Morrill of Vermont and others proposed that education should be practical and available to everyone.

In 1862, the federal Morrill Act provided funds from the sale of public lands to establish “land-grant” universities in each state for teaching agriculture and mechanical arts. In North Carolina, the funds helped finance what is now known as North Carolina State University, founded in 1887. The Second Morrill Act, passed in 1890, extended the benefits of the original act to black populations in 16 southern states. As a result, North Carolina A&T State University was established.

From the start, administrators at both of these land-grant colleges realized the importance of providing farmers and others with research-based knowledge. The federal Hatch Act of 1887 funded the creation of agricultural experiment stations to conduct agricultural research and to share scientific knowledge with students and farmers. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 strengthened the concept of service to the community by creating the national Cooperative Extension System through which land-grant college administrators could join with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct demonstration work.

The added partnership of county governments enhanced the federal and state cooperation inspired by the Smith-Lever Act. Since Cooperative Extension’s inception, county boards of commissioners have provided support to extend the benefits to the local level.

Initially, agricultural Extension agents focused on farmers and their families. However, as the population has become more urban, the demand for consumer horticultural information has increased dramatically.

In 1996, to further support the needs of horticulture-minded home gardeners, the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service (now NC State Extension) created the consumer horticulture program, which is housed in the Department of Horticultural Science in NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The program is coordinated by an Extension specialist at NC State.

B. Mission

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NC State Extension is NC State’s largest local and statewide outreach provider, delivering research-based agricultural, food, and youth programs that create economic, societal, and intellectual prosperity for all North Carolinians.

C. Vision

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NC State Extension is an international model for excellence in non-formal, community-based education. We are a dynamic and innovative organization, responding to changes in the social, political, economic, and technological environments. We engage the land-grant universities with local government and the people. Our educational programs address the contemporary needs and issues most important to our customers and their communities. Our faculty, staff, and volunteers are committed to individual and community empowerment, lifelong learning, and inclusiveness.

Our world-leading faculty and exceptional field faculty, known as Extension agents, are at the forefront of innovation and discovery. They provide high-tech, high-touch expertise to serve the unique needs of diverse clients. Our extensive partnerships with agriculture, business, industry, education, and government create a unique culture of collaboration that increases productivity and fuels economic development. Our trusted research-based programs and technical assistance provide solutions and empower our clients to make better-informed decisions. Our leadership in experiential education equips clients to effectively transfer knowledge and skills into practical application.

D. Organization

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Federal, state, and county governments each provide financial support and program guidance for N.C. Cooperative Extension, which has centers in each county and with the Eastern Band of Cherokee. These centers are grouped into districts, each guided by a director. Specialists and administrators at NC State and NC A&T State also support county efforts by serving as liaisons to the USDA, which is the parent agency for Cooperative Extension programs nationwide.

Field faculty—or Extension agents—in each of North Carolina's 101 local centers design and carry out educational programs aimed to serve local needs in

  • agriculture,
  • food, and
  • 4-H youth development.

Field faculty, staff, and volunteers are supported by research-based information generated at NC State, NC A&T State, and other land-grant universities. In North Carolina, university scientists conduct research in campus laboratories and at field stations, farms, and nurseries throughout the state.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) is a separate state agency that deals primarily with regulatory issues. For example, NCDA&CS handles pesticide licenses and the enforcement of pesticide laws, is involved with marketing and promoting agricultural commodities, and runs a soil-testing service.

E. Annual Impact

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  • Extension is the largest non-formal educational outreach organization in the 17-campus UNC system.
  • NC State Extension generates roughly $300 million in economic impacts annually, through 13,000+ programs and over 1.9 million contacts with North Carolinians.
  • 101 local centers—with offices in every county and with the Eastern Band of Cherokee—house over 800 Extension professionals
  • Extension volunteers play a critical role, connecting with nearly two million people in communities across the state.
  • Over 3,000 Master Gardener volunteers support programs and provide services valued at greater than $7 million.
  • Learn more about NC State Extension’s Stats and Strengths.

F. Funding Sources

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NC State Extension is funded by the following sources:

  • North Carolina General Assembly
  • North Carolina State University
  • county governments
  • USDA, through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
  • grants and contracts from both the public and private sectors
  • fees for service
  • donor gifts and bequests


Extension Urban Horticulture Specialist
Horticultural Science
State Coordinator, NC Extension Master Gardener Program
Horticultural Science

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: May 29, 2019

Recommendations for the use of agricultural chemicals are included in this publication as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by NC State University or N.C. A&T State University nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use agricultural chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage regulations and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension county center.

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