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DAUGAARD: Celebrating a century of thoughtful service

Each week, all over South Dakota, groups of boys and girls gather in community centers, living rooms, church fellowship halls and school gymnasiums, where they recite a pledge.

It goes, in part, "I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living."

Many of us immediately recognize the 4-H pledge and I remember my friends and I opening each meeting of our Logan Patrol 4-H Club with these words. The four simple phrases invite our children to embrace an attitude of thoughtful service, a source of great pride for many South Dakotans.

Today marks the centennial of the Smith-Lever Act, which established the Cooperative Extension Service, the nationwide education system operating through land-grant schools like South Dakota State University. Cooperative Extension is also the parent organization of 4-H.

Yet Cooperative Extension is far more than 4-H. It's more than a display booth at the State Fair or a county livestock show. It is the link between the teaching and research undertaken at our universities and the citizens of our state. Cooperative Extension provides many valuable services, including educational outreach, youth engagement and disaster response.

As just one example, when Winter Storm Atlas struck western South Dakota last fall, Cooperative Extension staff coordinated with state and county leaders to provide valuable assistance to ranchers and others who were in need.

Since 1914, we have relied on Cooperative Extension for research-based information on everything from community development and healthy living tools, to 4-H programming and best management practices for crops and livestock.

Through innovative programs like the iGROW digital dashboard, Cooperative Extension continues to evolve. In so doing, it uses knowledge to improve the lives of South Dakotans.

I look forward to another century of outreach through Cooperative Extension, and their efforts to engage in thoughtful service "for my club, my community, my country and my world."