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Gard, Robert Edward / My land, my home, my Wisconsin : the epic story of the Wisconsin farm and farm family from settlement days to the present
(1978)

Of man in search of better ways,   pp. 63-82 PDF (12.0 MB)


Page 64


William A. Henry prevailed upon the legislature to set up the
Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station, the first of its
kind in America, and agricultural education went from theory
to truth. Hiram Smith led the way. He organized an agricul-
tural group, among whom was a professor of agriculture, and
held meetings for farmers about the State. At a fair ar-
ranged by businessmen in Manitowoc, Smith was present and
was entertaining a considerable group of farm visitors. A
lawyer by the name of Charles E. Estabrook listened with
deep interest to Smith's discussion and wondered why it
would not be a good thing if such discussions could be carried
on regularly throughout the State. With collaboration from
Smith a bill was prepared. Estabrook ran for the Assembly,
was elected, and introduced and carried the bill through the
legislature, with the loyal assistance of Smith, who was a
former assemblyman and knew his way around in legislative
matters.
    The following historic statute 'set up in the University
of Wisconsin the Department of Farmers' Institutes by which
adult farmers could become students of the University in
their own communities.
    "An Act to provide for the holding of agricultural insti-
tutes. The people of the State of Wisconsin, represented in
senate and assembly, do enact as follows:
    "Section 1. The board of regents of the state university
is hereby authorized to hold institutes for the instruction of
citizens of this state in the various branches of agriculture.
Such institutes shall be held at such times in the months of
November, December, January, February, March and April
in each year, and at such places as said board may direct.
The said board shall make such rules and regulations as it
may deem proper for organizing and conducting such insti-
tutes, and may employ an agent or agents to perform such
work in connection therewith as they deem best. The courses
of instruction at such Institutes shall be so arranged as to
present to those in attendance the results of the most recent
investigations in theoretical and practical agriculture.
    "Section 2. For the purposes mentioned in the preceding
section, the said board may use such sum as it may deem
proper, not exceeding the sum of five thousand dollars in any
one year, from the general fund, and such amount is hereby
annually appropriated for that purpose.
    "Section 3. This act shall be in force from and after its
passage and publication."
                             Approved, February 19, 1885.
     The new College of Agriculture had a very lim-
ited faculty, and only now and then could it secure
professors ior the institute programs. Consequently,
it relied heavily on men in the Dairymen's Associa-
tion. This gave dairy color to the institute programs,
and eventually resulted in making Wisconsin the
leading dairy state.
     The first institute was held at Hudson on No-
vember 24-25, 1885. Thirty institutes were held that
year, and an average of seventy per year for nine
years. These were farmers' institutes indeed, con-
ducted by farmers with almost all discussions based
upon the experience of successful farmers.
     As a rule, new extension specialists started their
work by being brought into institute programs. For
Like pale ghosts, the old stumps haunted the fields.
Often they were forced to leave school at age twelve
or fourteen or even younger. Relatively few attended
high school. To help overcome this lack of continued
schooling, the Short Course in agriculture was estab-
lished.
     "I got to the fifth grade," said a farmer in Jack-
son County, "and that was the end of school for me.
I had to help my dad in the fields. When we got the
crops in I went back to school. I was the oldest child.
Dad wanted me to go to school but only after the
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