Monday, July 4, 2011

4 July 1911: "College on Wheels"

On this day in 1911, the Athens Banner ran the following editorial about the recent railroad tour of the state made by the State College of Agriculture, which at the time was still a separate institution from the University of Georgia:

 (click to enlarge image)

In 1911, the train from the State College of Agriculture visited 154 towns in 120 counties in 47 days. The train carried a passenger car for the educators and staff, livestock cars, and cars with modern farming machinery, with a center flat car that served as a stage. At each stop, the flat car was used for speeches promoting proven practices in farming methods, demonstrate the farming machinery, and exhibit the livestock. The train would stop overnight, with those on board eating at local restaurants and staying in local hotels near the railroad station, a boost to Georgia businesses outside agriculture.

These tours of extension education to improve agricultural outputs in Georgia began in 1908 and lasted until 1917. Extension work was highly promoted by College President Andrew M. Soule, and were immediately popular. Their first tour in 1908 brought out only about 150,000 people, but had ballooned quickly to "nearly four hundred thousand people" within just a few years. Dr. Soule believed that the State College of Agriculture was truly "the college with the state for its campus." 

Other outreach work included welcoming Georgia farmers to the campus farm and other cooperating farms for "field days" where they could demonstrate results of pasture development, winter grazing and foraging crops for livestock, and the effects of different practices on crop and livestock production. One of the earliest successful outreach campaigns was conducted with the Veterinary School to introduce the widespread vaccination of hogs to protect that industry from a devastating strain of cholera.

Formal offices for Agricultural Extension Services were not created until 1914. In later years, working at first with the Georgia Federation of Women's Clubs, the College's extension work expanded to other areas, with demonstrations of fireless stoves and iceless refrigerator, and the effectiveness of screening the home to prevent disease from insects. Later, new female Home Economics graduates from the College of Agriculture would hold community meetings to discuss health and nutrition, parenting techniques and child training, canning and pickling for food preservation, art, and physical education. 

The Agriculture College also helped set up "corn clubs" for boys around Georgia, a forerunner to the current 4-H Clubs. Within just a few years, the average per acre yield of corn by the boys' Georgia corn clubs was three times higher than the average per acre yield for the rest of the state.

The result of this groundwork in Georgia agriculture over the past century is Georgia's strong industry today: one-third of the state's land is used for farming, and sales of agricultural products earn nearly $7 billion. Despite ranking #28 in the United States for number of acres devoted to farmland, Georgia is the #1 producer of broilers (chickens), peanuts, and pecans; #2 in cotton, cotton seed, cucumbers, spring onions, rye, and snap beans; #3 in cantaloupes, bell peppers, sweet corn, and watermelon; and #4 in blueberries, peaches, and squash.

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