Cooperative Extension: Expert Help, (Mostly) No Charge

How many times have you found a damaged leaf in your garden and wondered what caused the damage?

Or wondered about that fruit tree that’s failing to thrive?

Of course, social media allows us to ask questions of a broad cross-section of the population, but sometimes you just need an expert.

Preferably someone who knows your region well. Enter the USDA.

Sure, we may gripe about their policy on raw milk or their stance on transgenic crops, but there is one service of the USDA that we can happily utilize: the Cooperative Extension System.


This system is available to the public and offers a variety of services, varying by state.

I couldn’t begin to list all of the services offered through the Cooperative Extension System.

These are a few that are invaluable to the home gardener or homesteader.

Master Gardeners

Volunteers who have completed Master Gardener training are available to answer questions.

These folks are usually avid gardeners who are quite familiar with their region. That makes them an excellent resource for figuring out that persnickety garden problem.

If they don’t know the answer to your question, they’ll research for you.

They can delve into the resources and experts available to them through the university.

The program often offers a region-specific planting guide, listing the best planting time for each crop.

Your local Master Gardeners might host a community garden, a plant sale, or offer workshops on topics ranging from mushroom gathering, worm composting, and keeping bees.

Soil testing

Growers can have in-depth soil testing done for a quite reasonable fee through the cooperative extension system.

Soil testing is often facilitated by the university that’s associated with the office.

Master Food Preservers

If you’re new to home preservation, find out if your local office hosts classes.

These are a great way to see the process in action and ask questions about all aspects of home canning.

You’ll usually walk away with a collection of USDA approved recipes, too.

The 4-H Youth Program

If you’ve got kids, your Cooperative Extension office is the place to start asking about 4-H.

Find out what clubs are in your area and what each offers in the way of projects.

Go here to find out more about the Cooperative Extension program.

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About the author: Kris Bordessa is an award-winning National Geographic author and a certified Master Food Preserver. Read more about Kris and how she got started with this site here. If you want to send Kris a quick message, you can get in touch here.

2 comments… add one
  • terry oropeza Aug 7, 2020 @ 12:16

    How long can you use green tomato relish in water bath after two weeks fermentation

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 11, 2020 @ 7:30

      I’m not sure I understand the question?

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