Program Areas



A land-grant college or university is an institution that has been designated by its state legislature or Congress to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The original mission of these institutions, as set forth in the first Morrill Act, was to teach agriculture, military tactics, and the mechanic arts as well as classical studies so that members of the working classes could obtain a liberal, practical education.  Over the years, land-grant status has implied several types of federal support. The first Morrill Act provided grants in the form of federal lands to each state for the establishment of a public institution to fulfill the act’s provisions. At different times money was appropriated through legislation such as the second Morrill Act and the Bankhead-Jones Act, although the funding provisions of these acts are no longer in effect. Today, the Nelson Amendment to the Morrill Act provides a permanent annual appropriation of $50,000 per state and territory.  A key component of the land-grant system is the agricultural experiment station program created by the Hatch Act of 1887. The Hatch Act authorized direct payment of federal grant funds to each state to establish an agricultural experiment station in connection with the land-grant institution there. The amount of this appropriation varies from year to year and is determined for each state through a formula based on the number of small farmers there. A major portion of the federal funds must be matched by the state. To disseminate information gleaned from the experiment stations’ research, the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 created a Cooperative Extension Service associated with each U.S. land-grant institution. This act authorized ongoing federal support for extension services, using a formula similar to the Hatch Act’s to determine the amount of the appropriation. This act also requires that the states provide matching funds in order to receive the federal monies.


Passage of the First Morrill Act (1862) reflected a growing demand for agricultural and technical education in the United States. While a number of institutions had begun to expand upon the traditional classical curriculum, higher education was still widely unavailable to many agricultural and industrial workers. The Morrill Act was intended to provide a broad segment of the population with a practical education that had direct relevance to their daily lives.  The Second Morrill Act (1890) sought to extend access to higher education by providing additional endowments for all land-grants, but prohibiting distribution of money to states that made distinctions of race in admissions. However, states that provided a separate land-grant institution for blacks were eligible to receive the funds. The institutions that, as a result of this act, were founded or designated the land-grant for blacks in each of the then-segregated Southern states came to be known as “the 1890 land-grants.” The 29 native American tribal colleges are sometimes called the “1994 land-grants.”


There is now at least one land-grant institution in every state and territory of the United States, as well as the District of Columbia. Certain southern states have two land-grant institutions as a result of the Second Morrill Act, and some western and plains states have several of the 1994 land-grant tribal colleges.


Justin Smith Morrill, a representative and later a senator from Vermont, sponsored the land-grant legislation that bears his name and is generally credited as having secured its passage. Prior to Morrill’s support for land-grant legislation, Jonathan Baldwin Turner, a Yale-educated farmer, newspaper editor, and college professor, made education for the working class his cause in the mid-nineteenth century. His “Plan for a State University for the Industrial Classes” advanced ideas that are now fundamental to the land-grant system, such as experimental research in agriculture. Morrill first introduced a land-grant bill in Congress in 1857, which after much struggle was passed in 1859 only to be vetoed by President James Buchanan. In 1861 Morrill introduced another land-grant bill that increased to 30,000 acres the grant for each senator and representative and added a requirement that recipient institutions teach military tactics. The newly felt need for trained military officers to fight in the Civil War, along with the absence of Southern legislators who had opposed the earlier bill, helped the Morrill Act through Congress in just six months. President Abraham Lincoln signed it into law on July 2, 1862.


The United States Department of Agriculture plays a large role in the administration of federal land-grant funds and the coordination of agricultural land-grant activities at the national level. The USDA’s Cooperative State Research Service (CSRS), for example, administers both Hatch Act and Morrill-Nelson funds. A portion of the Hatch Act funding supports regional research, enabling scientists to collaborate and coordinate activities and thus avoid duplication of research efforts. The Extension Service of the USDA administers Smith-Lever funding, cooperating with state governments (which also provide funding for extension programs) to set priorities and facilitate the sharing of information within the entire Cooperative Extension System.


America’s land-grant universities continue to fulfill their democratic mandate for openness, accessibility, and service to people, and many of these institutions have joined the ranks of the nation’s most distinguished public research universities. Through the land-grant university heritage, millions of students are able to study every academic discipline and explore fields of inquiry far beyond the scope envisioned in the original land-grant mission.



Founded in 1890 as Washington’s original land-grant university, Washington State University is a comprehensive land-grant university with teaching, research, and extension missions.  WSU has 11 colleges that foster scholarly achievement, and an enrollment of more than 29,000 undergraduate and graduate students on five campuses (Pullman, Spokane, Tri-Cities, Vancouver, and Everett) with approximately 20,000 students located on the main campus in Pullman, WA.  WSU is classified in the Highest Research Activity category by the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching.  Fewer than 3% of U.S. universities meet the criteria for this classification.  WSU strongly values diversity among its faculty, staff, and students, and seeks to ensure a welcoming community for all.  To learn more about WSU visit:



The College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) at Washington State University is an expansive and diverse college that includes 16 academic units, four research and extension centers distributed across the state, 13 subject matter centers, and 39 county and one tribal extension offices.  CAHNRS fosters disciplines that serve at the interface of scientific discovery and its application to the advancement of society and improvement of the human experience.  Our mission is to provide global leadership in discovering, accessing, and disseminating knowledge that contributes to producing a safe, abundant food and fiber supply; promotes the well-being of individuals, families, and communities; enhances the sustainability of agricultural and economic systems; and promotes stewardship of natural resources and ecological systems.  In all dimensions of our mission, we strive to embody the “World Class. Face to Face” motto of Washington State University.  CAHNRS personnel embrace the opportunity to fulfill the University’s land-grant mission by making groundbreaking research discoveries, by utilizing innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and by delivering relevant, progressive Extension programs that synergistically generate outcomes that enhance the quality of life for the citizens of Washington State, as well as for people around the globe. To learn more about CAHNRS, visit:



The State legislature passed law creating extension work at Washington State College in 1913.  Washington State law (RCW 36.50.010) authorizes WSU to establish and carry out extension work in any county in cooperation with the governing body of any county and municipality.  With over 40 locations throughout the state, WSU Extension is the front door to the University. Extension builds the capacity of individuals, organizations, businesses and communities, empowering them to find solutions for local issues and to improve their quality of life. Extension collaborates with communities to create a culture of life-long learning and is recognized for its accessible, learner-centered, relevant, high-quality, unbiased educational programs. WSU Extension engages people, organizations, and communities to advance knowledge, economic well-being, and quality of life by fostering inquiry, learning, and the application of research.  WSU Extension is committed to providing safe and inclusive environments for all youth and adults regardless of race; sex; gender; sexual orientation; gender identity/expression; religion; age; color; creed; national or ethnic origin; citizenship; physical, mental, or sensory ability; genetic information; and/or status as an honorably discharged veteran or member of the military.



The WSU Extension Youth and Families Program Unit is one of three departmental units of WSU Extension within CAHNRS.   Faculty and staff focused on youth and family issues and challenges provide statewide leadership to promote education, connection to resources and collaborations that create an environment where individuals of all ages can thrive in richly diverse communities across Washington State.  Faculty and staff in the Youth and Families Program Unit draw upon research-based programs and resources from the University.  Working in the human sciences, they incorporate local knowledge gained from living in the communities and engaging people, organizations, and communities to advance economic well-being and quality of life.


Major Extension programs housed within the Youth and Families Program Unit include:

  • 4-H Positive Youth Development—4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization.   WSU Extension 4-H reaches out to kids and their families to build skills for real life.  In Washington State, the 4-H program is the largest youth-serving organization in the state engaging almost 80,000 youth annually with educational programs leading to acquisition of critical life skills, reduced risk of dangerous behaviors, increased educational attainment, and enhanced citizenship skills.  4-H Healthy Living programs help 4-H youth learn how to lead lives that balance physical, mental, and emotional health.  4-H healthy living programs are available through local 4-H clubs and through grant-funded programs.  Focus areas for 4-H Healthy Living programs include nutrition, childhood obesity, drug awareness, bullying prevention, health and fitness, safety, stress management, and food science.  4-H places educational investments into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through fun, hands-on activities and projects. For kids who are curious about science-oriented jobs, 4-H offers the STEM Career Pathway, an easy to follow, 4-step framework for exploring, learning, practicing and experiencing STEM careers including animal, environmental, plant and food science.
  • Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)—Since 1969, EFNEP has improved the diets and food-related behaviors of program participants.  WSU Extension EFNEP brings together federal, state, and local resources to target two primary audiences: low-income families with young children and low-income youth. The program operates in 5 counties in Washington state. Each year, more than 3,000 new participants complete the program.  EFNEP educators follow a research-based learning model that allows them to effectively reach and educate program participants. Educators are members of the communities they support;  trained/supervised by university and county- based faculty;  skilled in using hands-on, interactive teaching methods; committed to delivering sound instruction; able to influence changes in behavior and impact the lives of those they teach; and dedicated to reaching diverse, low-income populations.  EFNEP strives to deliver research-based information and education to clients in the home, classroom, or in community group settings to help Washington families, with limited resources, make better nutrition and health decisions. Our focus is the development of strong, nurturing families, healthy children, positive youth development, and savings in food and healthcare costs for clients. EEFNEP is designed to assist limited resource audiences in acquiring the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and changed-behaviors necessary for nutritionally sound diets, and to contribute to their personal development and the improvement of the total family diet and nutritional well-being. Participation in EFNEP should result in improved diets and nutritional welfare for the total family; increased knowledge of the essentials of human nutrition; increased ability to select and buy food that satisfies nutritional needs; Improved practices in food production, preparation, storage, safety, and sanitation; increased ability to manage food budgets and related resources such as food stamps; and improved physical activity behaviors.
  • SNAP-Ed (Food$ense)—SNAP-Ed is funded, in part, by USDA Food & Nutrition Service (FNS), Washington State University and local community partners. Food$ense nutrition education encourages youth and adults with limited incomes to share and apply skills-based learning at home and school to affect positive health behaviors associated with obesity prevention. Expanded education outreach includes environmental and policy actions to promote access and availability of healthy foods and physical activity in communities in which SNAP-eligible families live, learn, work and play. Families benefit because Food $ense increases their ability to prepare tasty meals with basic, low-cost food; uses recipes that are quick, easy, tasty and healthy; strengthens relationships between family members; improves school performance; and encourages better health habits
  • Food Preservation—WSU Extension faculty and staff throughout the state provide education and training to the public to ensure they are using safe and effective techniques for preserving garden or market produce during the growing and harvesting season, which can help make fruits and vegetables and the food budget last longer.
  • Consumer Food Safety –WSU Extension’s statewide consumer food safety specialist has a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in microbiology and a doctorate in environmental science, with an emphasis on environmental microbiology and toxicology.  She educates people and helps officials and Extension faculty in Washington’s 39 counties and one tribal office, with the aim of keeping people safe and healthy.  If a consumer has food safety questions, they can get timely tips, breaking news on recalls, or other information they need by contacting their local county or tribal extension office, call the WSU Food Safety line or email, go to the Facebook page or  Twitter feed. When people think of food safety, most think of food recalls and canning. While those are extremely important, food safety is much bigger than that. For example, the Washington State Department of Health has put out advisories on fish consumption.  Some species of fish from waters across Washington are contaminated with mercury, lead and toxic chemicals. Many people, including pregnant or nursing women, children and the elderly, should not be consuming these fish, and people need to be aware of that. WSU Extension faculty and staff help expand awareness of food safety, whether we are talking about canning, proper cooking temperatures of food, or toxins.  In addition, food waste costs Americans approximately $165 billion annually, and households throw out as much as $2,200 in food annually. That’s a lot of money, especially for the 14 percent of U.S. households facing food insecurity.  It can be very difficult to reduce waste while ensuring food safety.  Some stories have circulated on how you can supposedly reduce waste by using expired foods, which is absolutely not recommended.  WSU Extension encourages consumers to buy food they can consume before it expires, and to compost food waste so nutrients can be put back into the soil.
  • Diabetes Prevention Program—WSU Extension collaborates with the WSU College of Pharmacy, Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance (DPCA), Washington State Department of Health, and Washington State Health Care Authority to bring the National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) to communities around Washington. National DPP is based on a research study led by the National Institutes of Health and supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which showed that participants who lost 5% to 7% of their body weight (10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person) by making modest changes, reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%.  Participants meet as a group with a trained lifestyle coach and learn how to make important changes during 16 weekly classes and 6 monthly follow-up sessions. Trained lifestyle coaches facilitate group discussion and coach participants to make key behavior changes to support weight loss and reduce diabetes risk including: making healthful eating choices, increasing fruit and vegetable intake, and adopting physically active lifestyles.
  • Parenting, and Child Development—WSU Extension family programs strengthen relationships between parents and their children in order to prevent and reduce the incidence of substance abuse and other risk behaviors. Our educators also work to understand and reduce the impacts of complex child trauma including parental neglect, emotional abuse, and physical abuse– one in three youth are exposed to these factors. Our educators work closely with WSU researchers to identify ways reduce these traumas and help schools and other institutions to more effectively deal with affected youth
  • Strengthening Families Program— The Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth 10-14 Years is a nationally recognized curriculum that provides parent, youth and family education. The model is designed to be delivered in local communities for groups of 7-12 families. Educational programs that bring parents and their children together in learning environments strengthen entire families.  WSU Extension faculty and staff have provided facilitation, training, evaluation and technical assistance for Strengthening Family programs in Washington State since 2002.  WSU has now trained over 400 facilitators from 29 Washington Counties. We have collected program evaluation data from nearly 100 programs and over 2000 parents and youth. In 2003 we formed an interagency team with representatives of the Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse (DASA), the Family Policy Council, Community Technology and Economic Development (CTED), the Department of Health, and a number of Educational School Districts. In 2004 we incorporated the Spanish-language version of the program into our dissemination effort.  The Strengthening Families Program has reached 5,228 families regionally.  Facilitators have delivered more than 578 seven-week workshops, serving more than 7,600 youth statewide and regionally. Since 2001, WSU Extension faculty have trained more than 800 program facilitators. 51 counties in Washington, Oregon, and Nevada participate in Strengthening Families Programs. Washington is expected to save $17 million due to this program’s impacts to date.
  • Child and Family Research Unit (CAFRU)—As a part of WSU Extension, the Child and Family Research Unit (CAFRU) works with community allies to promote health and wellness for underserved and at-risk populations through research, community development, and education. They work with a range of challenges facing families and communities.  The principal focus is on working with community systems to address the public health challenge of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and resulting trauma. Specifically, CAFRU focuses on how systems help individuals of all ages build resilience and recover from adversity.  Understanding that high levels of ACE exposure in the general population is common, CAFRU has found addressing trauma from ACEs to be a powerful strategy that can improve services in any system with the mission of supporting health and wellbeing in children and adults. CAFRU has developed an extensive body of work addressing the public health consequences of complex trauma, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and resulting trauma. The work in developing models to address trauma is focused on the successes of children, families, and community programs confronted by adversity.  A primary focus of CAFRU is research and evaluation of programs that counter the impact of complex trauma on individuals, families, systems, and communities. CAFRU faculty and staff conduct research to foster long-term success in early learning and K–12 education, primary health care, and other natural systems; and build understanding of the lasting effects of traumatic childhood experiences.  CAFRU is actively involved in helping communities develop their capacity to provide supportive services to their residents—especially those who are underserved and/or at risk. CAFRU works to build strong, supportive community systems, and develop relationships with community leaders and stakeholders to improve existing programs, especially those addressing issues surrounding at-risk youth, families, and K–12 capacity-building.  Since 2008, CAFRU faculty and staff have delivered complex trauma training to more than 30,000 professionals including those in the K-12 education system, early learning, juvenile justice, social work, mental health, primary health care, and community members in Washington, Oregon, and California. CAFRU is committed to equipping people in universal systems with awareness of complex trauma as a major health issue and with the skills to proactively respond.  Enhancing professional development opportunities for community leaders around the topic of complex trauma is a key mission of CAFRU. Specifically, CAFRU works to offer continuing education for community leaders including but not limited to health care providers and educators, and train community leaders on how to deal with childhood trauma and behavioral health challenges.