Home Demonstration work began in Henderson County in 1918 when Miss Annie Mae Baker served as home agent and farm agent Frank Fleming. About 1923, Dr. Jane S. McKimmon, State home agent, came to this county to encourage groups of homemakers to become organized. They were encouraged to grow tomatoes, to can these for home use, and to sell to others to add to the family income. A meeting of homemakers was held at the home of Gladys McKinna in the Etowah Community where Dr. McKimmon encouraged homemakers to consider ways of making their kitchens more functional and their homes more attractive. As part of this special project, Mrs. McKinna’s husband made a small tea cart for her. She displayed it at achievement day in 1978.
In 1924, Rachel Everette served as home agent for a year. She was one of the supporters of the formation of a curb market which still exists today on Church Street. (In 2010 the Curb Market celebrated its 85th anniversary.)
After a lapse of about a year, Ada Walker came to serve the county in 1929.
During the depression, there was no record of a home agent in the county, and we know that at times there were no farm agents, depending on the economy and opinions of the county commissioners as to the agency’s value.
During these years, life was not easy for homemakers, especially that day set aside for the family wash. There was a fire to build and keep burning in order to heat water and to boil the clothes. Using the scrub board and ironing with a flat iron were other necessary methods. In addition to running the house, the homemaker was usually called on to help with the work in the fields.
During the dreary days of the depression (around 1933), families were encouraged to continue growing and canning food from the garden. Farm agents were employed at times. They encouraged crop rotation, soil improvement, and crop selection.
A home agent was reinstated in August 1941, when Ruth Dicks began organizing home demonstration clubs. She resigned to do government work during the war and was followed by Ida Lee Pense who served until 1943. Anne Benson Priest was agent until 1949 when Helen Higdon took over the job and worked for a short time.
In 1941, during the early years of Extension Homemakers, Mrs. Walter Pike served as leader of the group in the Tracy Grove community. She also served as county council president and presented demonstrations to various clubs when there was no home agent available. In 1946, she served as president of district III, which included 19 counties. She represented this area at the World Conference of Country Women in Amsterdam in 1947.
County council presidents during these years were: Mrs. Gillespie, 1952; Mrs. Henry Key, 1956; Mrs. Locke Saltz, 1958; Mrs. Mack Rogers; Mrs. Jean (Jeannette) Ledbetter, 1963; Miss Blanche Searcy, 1965; Mrs. Lewis Grant, 1968; Mrs. Vernon Hight; Mrs. Everette Israel; Mrs. Goldia Blyth, 1978; and Mrs. George Gaynor, 1980.
Until 1953, one home agent served the county; however, during that year homemakers approached the county commissioners about employing an assistant also. Kathleen Hodges of Edneyville became an agent here in 1955. Other agents have been Nell Garrison, 1957-64; Justine Rozier, 1957; Peggie Davis, Peggy Hall, Sarah Saffels, Bobby Caldwell, Arleen C. Jones, Helen Neill, Wanda Wincoff, and Cindy Trexler Jones, Jean Lancaster, Joyce Armstrong, Cynthia Higgins, Joy Staton, Megan Schaffer, and Renay Knapp.
For many of the earlier years, home agents had the sole responsibility of working with home demonstration clubs. At one point there were 23 organized Extension Homemakers Clubs in Henderson County. These agents provided training and leadership guidance on a monthly basis to these clubs. Traditional home economics programs were the focus at the monthly meetings. Extension homemakers remember being shown how to sew in a zipper and were proud of the outcome. In 1964, the headline in the Hendersonville Times-News read “Clubs to See Color Film on Decorating”.
Over the past 62 years, at the Apple Festival, cooks have been able to enter their favorite Apple Recipe in the Apple Recipe Contest. This contest was initiated by the Home Economics Agent to allow cooks to show case their talent and share their recipe with others. It also helps the local economy as contestants are encouraged to use local apples. Prizes are donated by generous donors such as Biltmore House, Flat Rock Playhouse, Applebees’ and many other local businesses.
In the late 1990s when there wasn’t an extension agent in Henderson County, with the leadership of the county council president, clubs continued to meet and work toward learning and serving others.
Currently, in 2010, there are three active Extension and Community Association clubs in Henderson County. Even though they are fewer in numbers, their spirit of providing for families in their community and county is still in evidence. The ladies of Extension Homemakers/Extension and Community Association members have always been involved in community projects, benefiting various organizations, as well as families and individuals.
As one of their community projects years ago, Happy Valley Homemakers adopted a child at the Mills River Elementary School and provided Christmas for him at Christmas. They also sponsored an event for Special Needs children where the children were brought to a farm and allowed to ride and pet the horses. The children enjoyed a picnic lunch before returning to school.
Edneyville Extension Homemakers/Extension and Community Association members have sent a donation annually to an organization in Black Mountain to support their cause. They have also put their talents to work by crocheting items for Keep America Warm, hats for premature babies, and turbans for cancer patients.
Crab Creek Extension Homemakers/Extension and Community Association members have made fidget aprons for alzheimer’s patients and lap robes for nursing home patients.
As a county council, these three clubs work together to support many organizations and agencies in Henderson County. MainStay, a battered women’s shelter, is the recipient of donated items, and a party, usually around Valentine’s Day to remind these ladies that someone still cares for them.
Clothing and baby items are donated to Open Arms, which is a shelter for women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.
Interfaith Assistance Ministry’s mission is to provide temporary relief to Henderson County residents who are in financial crisis by offering emergency funds, food, clothing and counseling. The county council makes contributions annually to help this organization.
Programming in the Family and Consumer Sciences program has come full circle. In the past ten years one of the major focuses during the summer months has been on Food Preservation. Approximately 700 participants have taken food preservation workshops, receiving research-based information on how to preserve food.