The study of agriculture was part of the original mission of land-grant universities. Today, land-grant universities—often through USDA-supported programs—conduct cutting-edge agricultural research, which leads to important breakthroughs in seed quality, crop yield, and food security. Similarly, community-based projects of the universities and the USDA benefit the nation and the world.
Projects in this area of the Festival connected the best of the past to the promise of the future. Food sovereignty programs of tribal colleges reclaim the health benefits of traditional foods. The Master Gardener program, with branches at many land-grant universities, was born in 1973 at Washington State University in response to a burgeoning interest in urban and backyard gardening. According to a 2009 survey, this model community-extension program boasted nearly 95,000 volunteers.
Learn more about these and other programs that are “reinventing agriculture” in communities across the country, making the old new again by adding modern scientific knowledge to age-old agricultural wisdom.
Did You Know?
- The agricultural roots of some land-grant universities, such as Texas A&M, are still reflected in their names (A&M=Agricultural and Mechanical) and nicknames (The Aggies).
- Agricultural experiment stations, based at land-grant universities, were established in 1887 through the Hatch Act.
- The National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., was established in 1927. Part of the USDA, it has 446 acres, 9.5 miles of roadways, and a permanent reference collection of more than 650,000 specimens of dried plants.
Agriculture experiment stations at land-grant universities were created through the Hatch Act of 1887. One of those, the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station, hosted a livestock show in 1924. Photo courtesy of University of Maryland Archives
Acequias are traditional irrigation ditches or canals used in New Mexico. The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, in conjunction with scientists at Texas A&M University and the University of New Mexico and other agencies, has researched acequias, concluding that this ancient practice has value to modern farmers, providing cleaner groundwater and more efficient storage of water leading to improved crop production.
Photo by Bob Nichols, courtesy of USDA