The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Education, Agricultural

1354468The Encyclopedia Americana — Education, Agricultural

EDUCATION, Agricultural. The methods of scientific instruction in all branches of farming.

Historical. — Most of the early attempts to establish systematic agricultural instruction were made through schools of secondary grade. This was the natural consequence of the fact that the early development of agriculture was largely dependent on the development and application of chemistry. The two earliest colleges of agriculture to be established were at Hofwyl in Switzerland and Krumau in Bohemia. They were started in 1797. The former exerted a marked influence upon the development of agricultural education, especially that of a secondary grade. Its influence was felt in this country through the pupils that were drawn from this country and by the work of “Association of the Fellenberg System of Education.”

The first professorship of agriculture in a collegiate institution in this country was held by Samuel L. Mitchill of Columbia College. He also held chairs in natural history and chemistry at the same time. The position was established in 1792. Just when the first school devoted largely to the interest of agriculture was established in this country is difficult to determine. During the early part of the 18th century a large number of agricultural societies were active and many of these organizations were interested in promoting systematic instruction in agriculture. The writings of Washington, Franklin and Jefferson bear testimony to their interest in the subject.

In spite of the fact that it is difficult to determine the beginnings of schools of agricultural instruction, it is relatively easy to decide upon the first institution in this country that attained such a measure of success that it attracted general attention. This honor belongs to Gardiner Academy which was established at Gardiner, Me., in 1821. In the legislative act providing for its incorporation it is stated that it was “designed to prepare youth by scientific education to become skillful farmers and mechanics.” In 1823 the legislature made provision for some aid from the State treasury. This was undoubtedly the first State aid that was ever granted to an agricultural school in the United States. This institution had a fair measure of success for several years but was finally forced to close its doors in 1823, because of decline in student body and a lack of financial support. Many other attempts were made with varying degrees of success to found schools during the first half of the 19th century, but none met with a marked degree of success. All declined after, at most, a few years of existence. Among these institutions may be mentioned Agricultural Seminary, Derby, Conn., 1824; Cream Hill School, West Cornwall, Conn., 1845; Farmer's College, College Hill, Ohio, 1833; Fellenberg School, Whitesborough, N. Y., 1831; and Mount Airy Agricultural College, Mount Airy, Pa., 1847.

The movement for agricultural education began to assume more serious proportions when efforts were made to secure State and Federal aid for the support of agricultural colleges. To whom the credit belong for these suggestions is impossible to say with certainty. It is agreed, however, that through the influence of far-seeing men in several sections of the country pressure was exerted in behalf of State and Federal support of colleges of agriculture at about 1850.

In Pennsylvania the present State College is due to the activity of the State Agricultural Society that took definite steps in 1850-51 to secure an agricultural school. In New York State several attempts were made but all of the early ones were without great measure of success. To the State of Michigan belongs the honor of having the oldest college of agriculture in North America. This institution is also the first to be established entirely on the basis of State support. The State Constitution adopted in 1850 made provision that the State legislature should establish and maintain a college of agriculture. The law providing for its establishment became effective 12 Feb. 1855. Immediately a bitter fight followed over the location of the institution. There was a decided effort made by those who were interested in the State University to have the College of Agriculture made a part of that institution. This movement was opposed by the State Agricultural Society and this organization was successful as the college was finally located at East Lansing. This location, apart from a literary institution, is of considerable interest because of the influence that it exerted upon the establishment of “separate” colleges of agriculture after the passage of the Land Grant Act. In the early years of the agricultural colleges the separate institutions had a more substantial development than did those that were made a part of existing colleges or parts of State universities. The colleges that were made a part of a university were very slow to find themselves, but their growth in recent years has been of such a nature as to justify the views of those who believed they should be a part of a university.

On 16 Feb. 1857, the State legislature of Michigan appropriated $40,000 for the erection of buildings, instruction and maintenance for the years of 1857 and 1858. The institution opened to receive students 13 May 1857. State supported colleges of agriculture were established in Pennsylvania and Maryland in 1859.

Land Grant Colleges. — Undoubtedly there would have been a gradual development of colleges of agriculture on the basis of State support, but even before the establishment of the Michigan College of Agriculture there had been proposed plans for Federal aid. To whom the credit for this suggestion belongs is in doubt. Probably it had independent origin in the minds of several men. The first bill introduced in Congress touching on this subject was offered by Justin P. Morrill in 1857. At that time Mr. Morrill was a member of the House of Representatives from the State of Vermont This bill made provision for granting to each State 20,000 acres of land for each senator and each representative in Congress. It was finally passed 7 Feb. 1859. It was, however, vetoed by President Buchanan. The matter then rested until after President Lincoln's election, when Mr. Morrill again introduced a bill, drawn on lines similar to the previous measure except that it made provision for granting 30,000 acres of land to each State for each senator and representative in Congress. This measure became a law on 2 July 1862, when President Lincoln's signature was affixed.

It provides that the income from these lands shall be used by each State which accepts the benefits of the act “to the endowment, support and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislature of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.” A supplementary act was passed in 1866 by which provision is made so that when any Territory becomes a State it is entitled to the benefits of the Act of 1862, or the First Morrill Act as it is commonly called.

The Second Morrill Act became a law 30 Aug. 1890. This act provided for an initial allotment to the States of $15,000 per year with an automatic increase of $1,000 annually until the sum of $25,000 was reached in 1900. The purpose of this legislation was for the “more complete endowment and support of the colleges for the benefit of agriculture and mechanic arts established under the provisions of an act of Congress, approved July second, eighteen hundred and sixty-two.” Under the terms of this law, there is provision for the division of the funds between colleges for white and colored students in States where separate institutions are maintained.

The Nelson amendment was approved 14 March 1907. This provided for an increase of $25,000 a year to the allotments made under the Second Morrill Act. The initial grant was $5,000 and was subject to an annual increase of $5,000 until the maximum of $25,000 was attained. Under the two acts, the Second Morrill Law and the Nelson Amendment, the annual grant to each State is $50,000.

Through the provisions of the three acts there has been a marked development of State colleges of agriculture. As a result there are at the present time 67 of these institutions including those for colored students. There are 17 of these. In 1915 the total income of the land grant colleges was $31,961,765, of which amount only $3,552,077 came from Federal sources. According to a report from the United States Bureau of Education there were in 1915-16 private colleges to the number of 16, giving instruction in agriculture.

The debates that took place in Congress at the time of the passage of the First Morrill Act showed no clear conception as to what these colleges when established were to accomplish. It is also true that much diversity has been shown in the use of the funds by the States. In some of the eastern States the land grant was turned over to privately endowed colleges that were in need of funds and in the Middle West in some cases the grants were used as a basis for the establishment of State universities. In spite of these facts in the half century that has elapsed since the passage of the first act strong institutions have been developed that have come to have clearly defined aims and fairly definite means of attaining those ends. At present, in most of the institutions three lines of activity are clearly defined: viz., resident teaching, research and extension.

Teaching. — The courses offered by the institution are usually of two classes; long courses, four years of the usual length of a college year; and short courses which are commonly two years in length but of only 10 or 12 weeks duration each year. In addition most institutions make special provision for the adult student who cannot meet the entrance standards.

The admission requirements to the four-year courses are in general as high as those for admission to other college courses. The completion of the course leads to the degree of B.S. or B.S.A. The subjects taught include such basic sciences as chemistry, botany, zoology, mathematics, geology and meteorology. In addition English and political economy are usually required subjects. The applied subjects are represented by farm crops, farm management, rural engineering, soils, breeding, agronomy, animal husbandry, rural or agricultural economics, poultry husbandry, rural education, entomology, fruit growing, vegetable gardening, floriculture, forestry, landscape art, dairy industry and agricultural chemistry. The relation between the basic and applied subjects varies in the different institutions but usually it comes between the limits of one-third and one-half.

During the year of 1915-16 there were 16,008 students in the four-year courses and in addition 10,332 students in one- and two-year courses. To these figures should be added 2,053 four-year students in agricultural colleges for negroes. This is quite in contrast with the early experience of the colleges when they had almost no student body. Statistics from bulletin number 10 of the Carnegie Foundation show the student body in these institutions grew rapidly from 1894-95, 2,712, to 1914 14,844.

Since the land grant colleges are supported by the State and National governments, they have felt the need from an early date of providing instruction through short or winter courses for students who did not have the time to attend during the regular academic year or who may have lacked entrance requirements. Many early attempts were made at courses of this character but the University of Wisconsin is generally credited with having established the short course on its present day basis. This course was opened in 1888 and has run each year since that lime. These courses vary in length at different institutions but usually they are from 4 to 12 weeks in length and continue for one or two years. The work that is offered is of an extremely practical nature. That it is meeting a demand is attested by the fact that there were 14,108 short-course students in the colleges of agriculture during the year of 1915-16. It is quite likely that with the development of agricultural instruction in the public high schools and special secondary schools that this phase of the work may decline at the colleges.

In recent years many of the colleges are offering summer courses of 6 1o 12 weeks' duration to teachers. The need for this work has been especially pronounced as a result of the development of agricultural instruction in the elementary and secondary public schools.

Research. — Almost from the beginning of instruction in the colleges of agriculture some of the instructors devoted a portion of their time to investigation. This was made necessary by the relatively small body of agricultural knowledge that was established on a scientific basis and organized for teaching purposes. As a result of provisions of the Federal acts encouraging agricultural research most of the experiment stations are organized at the State colleges of agriculture. Commonly, the investigator is a member of both college and experiment station staffs. The results of the experimental work are usually distributed by means of bulletins that are published both in technical and popular form. See Agricultural Experiment Station.

Extension. This term is usually applied to the instructional work that is conducted with students who are not resident at the college. It covers a wide range of activities such as correspondence courses, which have been especially developed in Pennsylvania and California, demonstration schools, farmers' institutes, demonstration plots, lectures, reading courses, county agents, home demonstration agents and boys' and girls' club work. Almost from the beginning colleges of agriculture have felt the pressure for such work, because they are State supported and also as they had to establish themselves with the farmers.


1915-16 1916-17 1917-18
Federal government:
Farmers' co-operative demonstration work $905,782  $914,290  $943,088  $1,037,501 
Other bureaus 105,168  157,621  121,609  182,708 
Federal Smith-Lever 474,935  1,080,005  1,580,000  2,080,000 
Total $1,485,885  $2,151,916  $2,644,697  $3,300,209 
Within the State:
Offset $459,046  $904,090  $1,241,266 
Other State $711,516  696,405  597,105  530,564 
Total $711,516  $1,155,451  $1,501,195  $1,771,830 
Offset $68,004  $83,614  $202,846 
Other county $815,732  939,668  1,246,288  1,544,366 
Total $815,732  $1,007,672  $1,329,902  $1,747,212 
Offset $38,099  $63,910  $83,101 
Other college $346,750  209,682  142,524  198,644 
Total $346,750  $247,781  $206,434  $281,745 
Offset $34,850  $48,384  $72,784 
Miscellaneous $247,352  273,951  372,546  443,307 
Total $247,352  $308,801  $420,930  $516,091 
Total within States  $2,121,350   $2,719,705   $3,458,461   $4,316,878 
Grand total 3,607,235  4,871,621  6,103,158  7,617,098 

The first State law making specific appropriation for extension work was probably the Nixon Act which was passed by the New York State legislature in 1894. At the present time practically every college of agriculture has an extension department with a head who is usually designated extension director. There are approximately a thousand extension specialists on the faculties of the agricultural colleges. Much of the stimulus for this work and plans for its organization have come through the Smith-Lever Act which became effective 8 May 1914. This law differs from the previous acts in which Federal funds were granted to the States for the development of agriculture, in the fact that the National government retains a larger measure of control than in any previous legislation. This is done by making the funds available only for co-operative extension work that is carried on by the land grant colleges of agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture. The nature of this co-operative work is set forth in section 2 of the law as follows:

“Cooperative agricultural extension work shall consist of the giving of instruction and practical demonstrations in agriculture and home economics to persons not attending or resident in said colleges in the several communities, and imparting to such persons information on said subjects through field demonstrations, publications, and otherwise; and this work shall be carried on in such manner as may mutually be agreed upon by the Secretary of Agriculture and the State agricultural college or colleges receiving the benefits of this act.”

By the provisions of this act, $480,000 were appropriated for the first year, $10,000 of which went to each State accepting the provisions of the act. For the succeeding year there was an appropriation of $600,000 and this will increase annually at the rate of $500,000 until the of $4,580,000 is attained. These grants, except the $480,000, are “allotted annually to each State by the Secretary of Agriculture in the proportion which the rural population of each State bears to the rural population of all the States as determined by the next preceding Federal census.” In order to secure the benefits of the act an amount equal to that coming from the Federal government must be appropriated from sources within the State. The law is administered through the States Relations Service of the United States Department of Agriculture.

The most notable developments under this act have been the systems of county agents home demonstration agents, and boys' and girls' club leaders. March 1, 1918, there were co-operatively employed 2,645 county agents 1,514 home demonstration agents and 441 boys' and girls' club workers. Not all of these persons are employed on permanent funds as 2,950 are emergency agents put into the co-operative work for the purpose of stimulating agricultural production and food conservation after our entrance into the war with Germany. This act was made possible by an emergency appropriation of $4,350,000. The table on the preceding page, furnished through the courtesy of the States Relations Service, shows the growth of the co-operative extension work since the passage of the Smith-Lever Act.

The various Federal acts relating to instruction, research and extension in agriculture have resulted in the development of a group of strong institutions that are making their influence felt throughout the entire country. In 1918 there were 67 state and federally supported institutions of college grade giving instruction in agriculture, 17 of which were for negroes. In 23 States and Porto Rico the college of agriculture is a part of the university. Tuition is free to residents of the State in which the college is located in most cases. There were 7,066 persons engaged as instructors or investigators in these institutions.

Foreign Countries. — The most widely known college of agriculture in Canada is the Ontario Agricultural College at Guelph. This institution was established in 1874. Several other colleges have been established since that time. In addition to its collegiate instruction in agriculture Canada has done much to encourage the introduction of agriculture into the rural high and elementary schools.

The first chair of agriculture in England was established in the University of Edinburgh in 1790. In 1838 the Albert Agricultural College was founded at Glasnevin, Ireland, as a state-supported institution. The Royal College of Agriculture was established at Cirencester, England, in 184S. There have been other colleges opened for the purpose of giving instruction in agriculture and in addition there are a considerable number of other colleges giving agricultural instruction. National aid is given to this work through the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The Institut National Agronomique de Paris, which is supported by the national government, stands at the head of the French system of collegiate instruction in agriculture. In addition there are three national schools, one each at Grignon, Rennes and Montpelier. France has an excellent system of secondary schools of agriculture, some of which are specialized in their work and others give general instruction. There are also chairs of agriculture in many lyceums and colleges. Since 1879 instruction in elementary agriculture and horticulture has been obligatory in the normal and primary schools. Institutions for giving instruction in agriculture both of college and secondary grade are to be found in most of the civilized countries of the world.

Secondary Schools. — As has been noted most of the early efforts to give instruction in agriculture were made in schools of secondary grade. Numerous attempts were made to establish “farm schools” in the East and Middle West during the first half of the 19th century. While some of these met with a measure of success, sooner or later they were compelled for one reason or another to close. It was not until 1888 that a permanent secondary school of agriculture was established. This was the Minnesota State School of Agriculture, located at Saint Anthony's Park, in connection with the State College of Agriculture. Following the opening of this school there came a period in which there was considerable development of special secondary agricultural schools. In 1915-16 there were 28 such schools maintained by State colleges of agriculture, 74 special agricultural schools receiving State aid, and 12 private agricultural schools of secondary grade. These special schools have in some cases been supported entirely by State aid and in other instances by a combination of State and local funds. The unit of territory that they attempt to serve varies greatly. In some cases, e.g. New York and Minnesota they have been supported entirely by the State, and no boundaries set from which students may come, within the State. In Wisconsin the county has been made the unit and the schools are supported by State and county. In Georgia and Alabama a school was established in each congressional district, in Oklahoma the judicial district was made the unit, while in Arkansas the State was arbitrarily divided into four districts.

The length of the courses varies from one to four years with the most common length two years except in the district schools of Alabama and Georgia where the four-year course is the rule. The admission requirements very properly are not high for most of these institutions. Completion of the elementary school is expected, except for students over 16 who are commonly admitted regardless of previous academic preparation. In most of these schools the instruction is designed to meet the needs of boys who have come from the farm and who expect to return to it without further opportunity for study. In addition to the instruction in such agricultural subjects as farm crops, soils, animal husbandry, farm management, fruit growing, poultry husbandry, and dairying, the students have work in English, civics, arithmetic, and some basic science work. In these institutions the tendency has been to follow too closely in the footsteps of the colleges of agriculture so far as organization and presentation of the work are concerned. Most of the schools are provided with a farm.

It was noted in connection with the “separate” colleges of agriculture that in the early stages they developed more rapidly than did those that were a part of a university. When the later class finally started they had a more substantial growth, A striking parallel occurs in the development of agriculture instruction of secondary grade. The first few years of its growth the special schools were prominent and there were few agricultural departments in high schools. These, however, are developing rapidly in recent years. In 1915-16 there were 421 State-aided vocational departments of agriculture in public high schools and 2,981 public high schools teaching agriculture. In the vocational departments the course of study is commonly four years in length although frequently short courses are also offered. In other high schools the courses commonly run from a half year to two years.

February 23, President Wilson signed the Smith-Hughes bill for vocational education. This measure which makes provision for Federal aid to the States for vocational education in agriculture, trade and industrial subjects, and home economics, is certain to exert a marked influence upon the development of secondary agriculture. Like the Smith-Lever Act this law makes the development of vocational education in agriculture a co-operative enterprise between the various States and the Federal government. The law went into operation 1 July 1917 and provides Federal funds to the amount of $500,000 for the stimulus of vocational education in agriculture. This amount is increased by $250,000 annually until $2,000,000 is reached when it is increased to $3,000,000, which is the maximum, by annual increments of $500,000. This money is appropriated among the States in the proportion that the rural population of each State bears to the total rural population of all the States. In order to receive the benefits of this act there must be expended from sources within the State an amount equal to the amount received from the National government. The instruction must be designed for pupils over 14 years of age but it must be below college grade. The law further provides that the funds must be expended through State supported or supervised schools, and arrangements must be made so that pupils obtain at least six months of practical experience each year. The law makes provision for the preparation of teachers of vocational agriculture.

This act is administered by the Federal Board for Vocational Education which consists of a representative of labor, a representative of agriculture, a representative of trade and industry, and the following ex-officio members; secretary of agriculture, secretary of commerce, secretary of labor and the commissioner of education.

In all of the early attempts to develop agricultural instruction in secondary schools it was considered necessary to maintain a farm. In recent years the home project plan, which has been developed largely through the efforts of R. W. Stimson of Massachusetts, has proved more satisfactory as a means of affording vocational experience. The home project is ordinarily a productive enterprise that is an outgrowth of the school instruction but is carried on by the pupil at his home under the supervision of the agricultural instructor. The next 10 years are certain to witness a marked development and extension of the home project method in agricultural teaching in high schools.

Elementary Schools. — Agricultural instruction in the high schools raises many problems that are difficult of solution but the problem is even more serious in the rural elementary school. There are a number of States in which such instruction is required by law but in a large measure it has failed to function because it has been too bookish. This is chiefly due to the fact that in most States there is no adequate system for the preparation of rural teachers. They are unable to go into the school and utilize the experiences of the country child and the opportunities of the farming community for educational purposes. However, some very good results nave been attained in spite of the many difficulties. The consolidation of schools has greatly increased the possibilities of instruction in agriculture for pupils of the upper grades. This is also true of the intermediate schools of agriculture and mechanic arts of New York State; and the junior high schools to be found in the rural communities of Vermont. The latter have had a very marked development since 1915 when provision was made for them by special legislation. (See Agricultural Colleges; Agricultural Experiment Station). Consult Bailey, L. H., ‘Cyclopedia of American Agriculture’ (New York 1910-11); Carney, M., ‘Country Life and the Country School’ (Chicago 1912); Bulletins of United States Department of Agriculture and of State Experiment Stations.

Rural Education Department New York State College of Agriculture, Cornell University.