Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Vital Need for Families for 100 Years, Lee County FCS

From the Sanford Herald, May 26, 2011  (

SANFORD — For decades, rural women in Lee County relied on home demonstration agents like Eunice Cameron to teach them about food canning, advanced sewing and general household management.

“I can’t think of anything we didn’t have in regular homemaking,” said the 97-year-old Cameron, who also named flower arranging, embroidery and picture framing among the skills she helped others master.

Although its methods have evolved, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Family and Consumer Sciences Program is still operating — with the mission of educating families on health, safety and environmental issues. On Wednesday, more than 850 delegates from across the state will gather at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh to mark the program’s 100th anniversary.

“I’m hoping to see some of the people I knew many years ago,” said Cameron, who will be among 18 representatives attending from Lee County.

Cameron followed her mother into the FCS program as a young adult. Listing some of the activities she recalls being involved in, Cameron said, “We made clothes, we made baskets; when we didn’t have enough shelves, we made shelves for our cabinets.”

“It has been of tremendous benefit,” Cameron continued. “I thought it was the next thing to a college education for those who couldn’t go to college.”

The program got its start in 1911 with Jane McKimmon, who was hired as the state’s first home demonstration agent. Around the turn of the century, “tomato clubs” started to sprout up in Lee County and throughout North Carolina.

Locally, in 1915, groups of young women would grow the crop and then learn to prepare it for canning. The focus soon expanded to preservation of all foods, and then later encompassed family health and weight control.

During World War II, home demonstration projects centered on stretching available resources — by means such as making cotton mattresses and planting victory gardens. Throughout the decades, residents across the state and county have learned to repair and refinish furniture, decorate their homes, preserve food, construct clothing, landscape their homes, manage money and increase family income through cottage industries — among other skills.

“At one time, we had over 20-some clubs in Lee County, who improved the quality of life in rural areas through education programs,” said Lee County Extension Director and family and consumer science agent Susan Condlin. “As we grew, and they grew, they started to offer them to all people — not just rural women.”

Read more: Sanford Herald - A vital need for families for 100 years

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