Throwback Thursday: Purdue’s Long History of Agricultural Contributions


While digging into the fertile soil of our archive room, staff has discovered an Indiana Chamber report from August 1945 titled, “Aids Behind the Farm: A Directory of Functional Analysis of Governmental and Civic Organizations in the Field of Farming.” (Yes, the title is certainly a mouthful – potentially equaling a bushel of vegetables from a Hoosier farm.)

The booklet includes features on major farm-related organizations in Indiana – and the nation – like the Indiana Farm Bureau, The Grange, the National Farmers Union and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. One such prominent organization highlighted is Purdue University. The 1945 entry about the school reveals its history and mission, and why it’s such a benefit to the agricultural industry:

In 1869 the Indiana General Assembly took steps to establish an institution of learning and it received $340,000 from the Federal government which sum is held in trust by the state at interest. In 1869 the General Assembly accepted from John Purdue, a philanthropic businessman of Lafayette, and other public spirited citizens of Tippecanoe County, the sum of $200,000 and a tract of 100 acres of land. It also voted to name the institution ‘Purdue University.’

In 1879 the College of Agriculture was founded. Prior to 1900, few students attended the college and intensive efforts had to be made to acquaint farmers with the value of agricultural training. The first short course in agriculture was held in the winter of 1887-1888. These intensive winter short courses are still permitting hundreds of farmers to attain further knowledge of profitable agricultural practices.

Even then, Purdue’s county extensions played a major role in building the state’s agricultural climate. (The school has an extension in all 92 Indiana counties.):

An integral part of the work of the Extension Department is carried on through the efforts of more than 30,000 volunteer local and neighborhood leaders. County Extension Committees, organized in each county, are composed of local people who know the immediate needs of the county and who help to plan the extension program of their counties to meet the local problems. These people help to bring to Indiana farmers the information and facts which they need to meet their particular problems speedily and proficiently, and to advise returning veterans interested in farming.

In 4-H Club work, more than 3,600 young men and women serve as junior leaders and 2,200 parents and other adults serve as volunteer local leaders.

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