With a mix of homey decor, exposed wood and tin, the new Hardin County Extension Service building remains true to the small-farm, community economy that led America’s land-grant universities to give birth to this grassroots organization more than a century ago.
At the same time, the new building’s training rooms and modern technology reflect the high-tech nature of today’s agriculture community, which relishes its values and traditions while relying on the Extension Service for the latest expertise.
The roughly $8 million building is not simply a showcase. It’s a working center where the staff sees its 111 Opportunity Way address as a mission statement.
It stands in what not long ago were soybean fields alongside the livestock events center dedicated just a few months earlier. The overwhelming size — four times larger than its previous office on Peterson Drive — and the workmanship which defines it as the latest local landmark in the Jenkins-Essex Construction portfolio are obvious to anyone driving along the western edge of Ring Road in Elizabethtown.
What’s not as obvious is nearly 15 years of blood, sweat and tears associated with planning, design and financing that led to Friday’s grand opening and ribbon cutting celebration.
The end result will serve the community in countless ways.
Extension reaches deep into the lives of Kentuckians. Rooted as it is in agriculture, many people think of the traditional county agent working with farmers to increase yield of plants and livestock. But its work extends to environmental issues, land management, conversation, sustainable agriculture, forestry and horticulture.
Extension also has been nurturing families for generations with programs ranging from nutrition and child care to financial security and aging well. It is the center of countless valuable educational and enrichment programs held year-round.
Another respected segment of Extension Service is its 4-H youth development. From clubs to camps, children develop leadership and discover critical skills including the value of work through 4-H. It’s impact cannot be underestimated.
Extension today also is known for improving communities. Programming such as the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky are building stronger cities, towns and counties. Before most of us, Extension leadership recognized the interconnected success of farms and communities and has built paths of mutual support.
The Hardin County Cooperative Extension Service is justifiably proud of its new office building. The building is simply a tool for some fine folks making a difference locally with timely programming.
Don’t call it the Extension Office. It is truly the Extension Service.
This editorial reflects a consensus of The News- Enterprise editorial board.