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
Of man in search of better ways, pp. 63-82 PDF (12.0 MB)
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 64
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