His ease in the policy arena was complemented by his managerial preference to delegate.

“I’ve always had a kind of administrative philosophy of trying to get the best people to do the job,” Smith said. “Get smarter people than you are around you, and you will be successful. Of course, getting them smarter than me wasn’t a very high bar.”

Smith’s laughter returns, followed by another swig of Pepsi and then another look back.

“I’m finishing my 38th year with Extension as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act,” Smith noted. “That was one of the five most important pieces of legislation in the history of this country.

“It recognized that if you don’t have education, you’re not going to have economic development. So with the nation torn in two by civil war, they passed a law that said ‘we don’t have money but we’ll give you land to start a public university in each of the states.’ And the sole objective is that the common person, the Ed Smiths of the world, doesn’t have to have wealth to receive a higher education,” he said.

That legislation was followed by the Hatch Act in 1887, which established experiment, or research, stations to study particular agriculture issues in connection with the public land-grant university, Smith noted. And the Smith-Lever Act was tacked on in 1914 to establish the county agent structure that would take the information from the universities and research stations to the local producers, where it would be applied to grow more and healthier food and fiber crops for the people.