In recognition of state Extension Homemakers Club Council’s 100th anniversary, State Rep. Sheilla Lampkin will feature a series of articles about the history of Drew County EHC Council, a service organization that began more than 80 years ago.

The Drew County Extension Homemakers Council is a dedicated service organization that began over 80 years ago in Drew County with local clubs who met in many communities throughout the county. Today there are nine extension homemakers clubs in the county, but in 1956 there were actually 23 active county clubs educating and serving the citizenry.

This week we will begin a miniseries of articles that features the history of Drew County’s current EHC clubs and their roles in the history of the county. However, before we begin to look at the history of each of these EHC clubs, we need to briefly review the group’s organization on the state level. This is a memorable and special year in the history of the organization known today as the Arkansas Extension Homemakers Council because this year, 2012, the Arkansas EHC Council and its long history of service in rural Arkansas will celebrate its first 100 years.

In reality, the events leading up to the organization’s founding began in late 1862. In that year the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act established the United States Department of Agriculture and allowed states to fund land grant colleges on federal lands within the state.  Thus was born the University of Arkansas.

The Hatch Act of 1887 also appropriated federal funds for experiment stations to conduct agricultural research in America. By 1903 the boll weevil had migrated from Mexico far into Texas and the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) sent a gentleman named Stephen Knapp to Texas to demonstrate scientific farming practices he had developed in Iowa to combat the crop destroyer.

Knapp set up a successful model farm in Texas and hired 33 special agents to cover the state demonstrating his model and helping farmers there improve their farming techniques. In 1905 one of those agents, J. O. Evans, was named state agent for farm demonstration work in Arkansas and Louisiana through UofA.

By 1908 Arkansas had 7 district agents and 19 county agents working with farmers to improve agricultural practices in Arkansas. By 1912 Arkansas had 36 county agents and the first Corn Club, forerunner of the 4-H clubs, had been formed to introduce better farming practices through children.

The first canning club to demonstrate new canning practices to Arkansans had also been started. That first club was organized in the Mablevale community in Pulaski County by a part time canning agent named Emma Archer. In 1914 she became the first state agent in charge of women’s and girls’ work.

Out of those “canning clubs” came the Home Demonstration Clubs. The concept grew like wildfire and by 1917 there were 159 such clubs throughout Arkansas.

In August of 1929 the State Council was organized by 125 women representing 27 counties. Mrs. E. L. Salyers of Pulaski County was the first president. The state organization has had several names. The original name, Home Demonstration Clubs, was changed in 1966 to the Arkansas Extension Homemakers Council. Their major focus was food production, food preparation and food preservation.

In 1992 the name became Arkansas Association for Family and Community Education and its primary goal became reaching families and communities with current and needed educational information for rural families. In 1994 the members voted to withdraw from the above national organization and, in 1995, they changed their name back to the Arkansas Extension Homemakers Council. They felt this name better suited their mission of strengthening families through educational and familial pursuits yesterday, today and tomorrow.

The Arkansas Extension Homemakers Council partners with the Cooperative Extension Service and the U of A Division of Agriculture’s adult education program in agricultural and family and consumer sciences. Their goals are adjusted annually to meet specific community needs driven by agricultural issues. The volunteer work of Arkansas’ Extension Homemakers Clubs enhances the lives of ordinary and extraordinary Arkansans today just as it did 100 years ago.