Could the extension service do for health what it has done for agriculture through the years? During the past century, American agriculture – with assistance from agricultural research and extension – has been transformed from subsistence farming to an agricultural system that is the envy of the world. Could similar progress occur in the health arena? To do so would require a deep cultural change that would value health as a priority. In short, we might say it requires a culture of health.
Dr. Paula Peters is associate director of extension programs for K-State Research and Extension. The term “extension” refers to the state- and county-based educational outreach programs which extend helpful research results from the nation’s land-grant universities to the public.
“For years, (extension) has done work on nutrition, foods, and physical activity,” Paula said. In a larger sense, extension has worked to support the health of families, farms and communities since the extension service was founded in 1914.
In 2014, the national Extension Committee on Policy supported the development of a national framework for extension work in public and community health. That report included the aspirational statement that extension could do for health what it has done for agriculture.
Where do bibles and rifles connect? That unlikely combination can be found in the history of Kansas, and particularly in one historic rural community church. This church is continuing to serve its members and its historic legacy.
Don Whitten is a member of the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church in Wabaunsee. He told me this remarkable history. It all began in the 1850s era of Bleeding Kansas, when the people of the territory were involved in a vicious debate over whether Kansas would become a slave state or a free state. Advocates for both sides flooded Kansas territory. For example, abolitionists in Connecticut raised money to send a group of free-state colonists west.
A famous New York preacher, Henry Ward Beecher, raised money for the cause and sent crates of rifles and bibles to the colonists. According to legend, the rifles were covered with bibles so as to get through the pro-slavery state of Missouri.
In 1856, the Connecticut colonists came to Wabaunsee. In the following year, they organized the First Church of Christ there. A new stone church was dedicated in 1862. This became the site of one of the most influential Congregational churches in Kansas.
By the 1930s, population had fallen, church membership dwindled and the church closed. In 1950, it re-opened. Today, the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church is an independent, non-denominational church which still meets in the original but remodeled stone building. Services are held each Sunday at 9:45 a.m. with Pastor Lynn Roth officiating.
Fort Union, New Mexico. At this historic fort, a group of African-Americans are re-enacting the role of the historic U.S. Cavalrymen known as buffalo soldiers. One of their leaders is a man from rural Kansas.
Jay Clark is founder and organizer of the Wichita Buffalo Soldiers. The name “buffalo soldier” came from the native American Indians in the 1860s, because the strength, courage and curly hair of the African-Americans reminded them of the Great Plains buffalo.
One of Jay Clark’s ancestors was a buffalo soldier. Jay’s father served in the military as well. Jay grew up at Nicodemus, which had been originally settled as an all-black colony in northwest Kansas in 1877. Nicodemus is located near Bogue, a rural community of 143 people. Now, that’s rural.
Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University writes Kansas Profile. The weekly posts highlight individuals or companies in rural Kansas who are making a difference to their community and state.
The Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is a public / private partnership between Kansas State University and the Huck Boyd Foundation. The mission of the institute is to help rural people help themselves. Learn more at www.huckboydinstitute.org.