Voices of Rutgers Cooperative Extension History

John L.Gerwig

Dean and Director of Extension 1962-1992
Extension Specialist in Field Crops 1956-1962
Photo: John Gerwig.

John Gerwig

My involvement with Cooperative Extension dates back to when I was 5 years old in West Virginia and had my first feeder 4-H calf.  I continued in 4-H until adulthood.  In New Jersey, I served as Extension college from 1952-1956.)   Therefore, I have been involved with Cooperative Extension for more than 75 years of its 100 years.

Today I draw on my extension experience and write a column for the local newspaper called "Tips for The Gardener."  Cooperative Extension has been a lifetime experience!

Briefly describe your work in Cooperative Extension. 
I had two different positions in Cooperative Extension.  First as the Extension agronomist and then as Director.  As the Extension agronomist it was my job to conduct applied research in field crops and to keep up to date on the research that was being conducted in field crops at all Land-Grant colleges.  This knowledge was then transferred to the farmer working through the county agricultural agent in each county.

As Director, I gave leadership to all phases of Cooperative Extension, namely: Agriculture, Home Economics, 4-H Youth Development and Marine. Programs.  As Director, I was responsible for obtaining funds from local, state and national sources and was involved in hiring, guiding and promoting the county and state faculty and the staff at the state level.

How did your work impact the lives of the clientele you worked with?
As Director, the competence and wellbeing of the faculty and staff were paramount.  Competent faculty could then work more effectively with their clientele throughout the state to assist them in improving their lives and well-being.

As Extension Specialist in Field Crops, the improvement of the farmers’ livelihood through more efficient crop production was the major goal.

What are you most proud of during your Extension career? 
Securing funds through legislative contacts at the local, state and national level that made it possible to hire the best personnel and provide them with the training and sufficient funds so that they could conduct the best programs possible for their clientele.  To be one of the first states in the country for all faculty and staff to become computer literate.

What has been your most memorable experiences in Cooperative Extension? 
Helping clientele achieve their goals.  Seeing young 4-H members conduct meetings and speak to national audiences that numbered in the thousands.  Seeing an urban 4-H Drill Team achieve national honors.  Having urban families learn better nutrition and to learn how to better feed their families on a limited budget.  Seeing farmers’ faces when they were recognized as being the best producer of field crops in the state and nation.