Letter to the Editor

Extension clubs have long history in Carroll County

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Carroll County Home Demonstration Clubs was organized Oct. 17, 1923. As we approach their centennial it is an appropriate time to reflect on the many contributions EHC groups have made in our county.

Through extension services many farmers and farm wives have learned skills to improve their crops, herds and quality of life for their families and communities. These services continue to be very important today — I have learned that county extension offices have been receiving many more requests than usual since the beginning and escalation of COVID 19, especially requests about gardening and canning! Many people are having more time at home and economic motivation to grow their own vegetables and fruits. Since the weather has cooperated this summer, good harvests of home-grown produce have resulted in the need to preserve the products of those gardens making information about how to do home canning and jelly making hot topics these days. With many children at home from school, the Extension office is receiving more questions about child care. And since we are cooking at home more now, many of us are looking for new, inexpensive recipes. I found some good ones by simply doing a Google search for “Arkansas Extension Service recipes.” I used that approach by changing “recipes” to “canning” to “growing tomatoes,” etc. Also you can go directly to their website  uaex.edu  It opens with several subject areas like yard & garden, environment & nature, life skills & wellness. When I chose the latter one, I found sections on food safety, personal finance, health & exercise, home demonstration clubs and more.

If you want to find out about an extension homemakers club in your area, contact the Carroll County Extension office, Olivia Foster, CEA Chair, ofoster@uaex.edu. Whether your land is a backyard in town or a place in the country, the county extension office provides self-help information for many projects.

My interest in these clubs started when my grandmother told me about her experiences in a home demonstration club in Boone County in the 1930s — from canning food to making mattresses! Years later, my sister told me how much she learned through an EHC club here in Carroll County. She learned so many things useful to her as she learned to be a farm wife after marrying a Carroll county farmer. She also made many lifelong friends, one of the benefits of these clubs.

Carroll County Home Demonstration Clubs included groups in the communities of Berryville, Bunch, Cove, Eureka Springs, Grandview, Green Forest, Thornton and more. Though the county organization disbanded in 1973, many community groups continue to be active.

The University of Arkansas Libraries Special Collections department preserves a manuscript collection with club scrapbooks, yearbooks, lists of officers and agents, meeting materials, etc. It is the Carroll County Home Demonstration Club records (MC 1346). This collection is extensive but not comprehensive, so much information from individual clubs is yet to be located. Manuscript materials are currently  available for research in Special Collections by arranging for a one-to-one appointment (due to COVID-19). Email specoll@uark.edu or telephone 479-575-8444.

Information about club meetings, activities, and projects were published in the newspaper and the Carroll County Historical Quarterly. For example, two interesting ones were published about recipes from the 1944 Carroll County Cookbook:  in the quarterly September 2003 volume 48, issue 3, pages 116-117 and in March 2004 volume 49 issue 1 page 22. These are available at the Berryville Public Library.

— Andrea Cantrell