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Posts tagged: Agricultural Innovation

Feb 09 2016

From Dr. McKimmon To Miss Current: A Legacy of Home Demonstration

It was a little less than 80 years ago this month that on February 4, 1937, Ruth Current succeeded Dr. Jane S. McKimmon as State Home Demonstration Agent for the North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service (later renamed Cooperative Extension Service). Both women are still remembered for their tremendous contributions to agriculture and for being two great North Carolinians. Today in the Better Living digital collection there are now annual statistical reports and county extension reports from the 1920s and 1930s created under their supervision. Before exploring these new resources the following is a brief retelling of the story of these remarkable women and how that torch was passed.

Jane Simpson McKimmon (1867-1957)

Teacher, civic leader, state extension leader, writer and one of the first women to graduate from NC State are only a few of McKimmon’s accomplishments. In 1911, Jane Simpson McKimmon a graduate of Peace Institute was selected as home agent to serve women in NC. At the time she was one of only five home agents in the nation. After 24 years she had transformed a home demonstration group for 514 white females in 14 counties into a statewide program with 54,310 white and black females in 78 counties. As many as 29 counties entered home demonstration work in 1933 alone. She traveled constantly from county to county and pioneered the technique of home demonstration to teach farm families.

Her teaching methods would be adapted nationally and internationally. She was innovative in training and teaching farm women in home economics in North Carolina. Her tremendous work in the NC Agricultural Extension Service made her an early champion of rural adult education. The effects of Jane McKimmon’s progress in home demonstration work can be seen in annual statistical reports now available online in the Better Living Collection. Please view the 1923-1924, 1925-1926, 1929, 1931, 1932 annual county worker reports. Home demonstration reports by Jane McKimmon from 1911 to 1943 plus photographs are available online from the “Green and Growing” digital collection. NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center is also home to the Jane Simpson McKimmon Papers, 1927-1968.

In 1935 McKimmon announced her desire to resign from demonstration work. Agricultural Extension Director Dr. I. O. Schuab respected her request but wanted her to wait until an appropriate replacement could be found.

Dr. Jane S. McKimmon in 1939.

Ruth Augusta Current (1901-1967)

The February 12, 1937 edition of the State College newspaper “The Technician” announced the resignation of Dr. McKimmon in a lengthy column which concluded with news about the new state agent. The appropriate replacement Dr. Schaub hoped for was a young woman named Ruth Augusta Current. Miss Current, as she was frequently referred to in the press and within extension work documentation, was a graduate of Meredith College, Peabody College and Columbia University with an academic background in home economics, sociology and adult education. After serving at a Winston-Salem orphanage and at several high schools she began extension services as an agent for Iredell county in 1927.

In November 1930, Current succeeded Miss Martha Creighton as the district home demonstration agent for the southwest region of 25 counties. Shortly after she was also appointed State Girl’s 4-H Club Leader serving under L. R. Harrill. While working in both of these positions it was announced that Current would become the new state home demonstration agent on February 4, 1937. McKimmon was pleased with the choice of Ruth Current whom she had know for nearly a decade.

The number of counties with home demonstration programs continued to grow under Current’s leadership. See the “Home Demonstration” section of the 1937 annual report for some statistics from her first year on the job. To see more of Ruth Current’s work during her time as state agent view these home demonstration supervisory reports from 1940 to 1956 from the “Green and Growing” digital collection. Ruth Current actively continued in the role of state home demonstration agent until 1957, after which she served as assistant director for the NC Agricultural Extension Service for Home Economics for an additional four years. When she was inducted into the NC Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1976, she was honored for her role in expanding resources for rural women in the areas or literacy, crafts, citizenship, music appreciation, public health and the connection of rural education to state and national organizations.

Ruth Current with foreign visitors in front of portrait of Mrs. Jane S. McKimmon, September 14th, 1954.

“When We’re Green We Grow”

Both women would continue to be supportive of each other and the work of the extension. Although she resigned from home demonstration work in 1937, McKimmon served as assistant director of the NC Agricultural Extension Service until her official retirement in 1946. In addition to that role a great deal of her time was devoted to the completion of her book When We’re Green We Grow a history of home demonstration, published in 1945 by the University of North Carolina Press.

Left to right: Ruth Current, actress Jane Darwell, and Jane McKimmon on an episode of the Cavalcade of America radio program, 1949.

In 1949 Ruth Current accompanied McKimmon to New York City for a radio dramatization of her book. The episode, also titled “When We’re Green We Grow,” was broadcast on the Cavalcade of America program on Monday, May 2, 1949 over the NBC network. “Miss Jennie” McKimmon was played by noted radio actress Helen Claire. The real Jane McKimmon can be heard 25:15 minutes into the broadcast after being introduced by Academy Award winning actress Jane Darwell. It would have been nice to also be able to hear Ruth Current’s voice as well. Maybe it is her clapping for a few moments at the introduction of Jane McKimmon.

Dec 07 2015

Early Radio Programs of the NC Cooperative Extension

While reviewing materials for the “Better Living in North Carolina” project, we noticed that many of the annual Cooperative Extension Service reports beginning in 1935 featured a section called Publications.

This section was a review of all printed and audio-visual methods used by the extension to educate the farming population. One of the newest, yet far-reaching educational tools used by the United States Department of Agriculture at that time was radio. The NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center’s digital program has previously uploaded photographs of extension and sports related broadcasts made by North Carolina State University on local station WPTF. Now digitization in the “Better Living” project is revealing more information about how this radio station, and others in the Tarheel state, aided the transformation of the state’s agricultural economy.

Extension radio broadcasting may have began in North Carolina as early as 1922, but was most certainly on the way by 1927. In this blog post we hope to highlight some of the earlier radio programs which brought news, entertainment, and education to the farming population of North Carolina.

L. R. Harrill, center, and 4-H club members in front of WPTF radio microphone, during North Carolina State 4-H Club Week, 1952.

State College Broadcasting Program (c. 1927 – ?, WPTF)

Photographs and early newspaper radio logs detail weekly talk broadcasts listed only as the State College Broadcasting Program. On these programs professors and extension service agents stepped up to the microphone to give weekly 10-minute talks on many agricultural topics. John A. Arey, the dairy extension specialist, discussed why dairying was suited for traditional crop farming on May 22nd, 1929. On July 3rd of the same year the legendary Dr. B. W. Wells hosted “An Excursion to the Peat Bogs of North Carolina“. Other speakers included C. H. Brannon, extension entomologist; Dr. S. G. Lehman, plant pathologist; and W. L. Clevenger of the department of dairy manufacturing. Beginning in May of 1930, daily broadcasts were made, some of which were market reports on North Carolina farm commodities.

L. R. Harrill, state 4-H leader, sitting in front of an NBC Microphone

Carolina Farm Features (September 16th, 1935 – 1944, WPTF, later WRAL)

Extension broadcasting really began to peak in NC with Carolina Farm Features, a daily 15 minute program made by the North Carolina State College Agricultural (Cooperative) Extension Service. Eugene Knight was in charge of production, and Frank H. Jeter, agricultural editor and director of publications for NC State, was the director of these programs. Monday through Saturday broadcasts were conducted by extension specialists, experiment station workers, NC state faculty, farm and home agents, home demonstration club women, and 4-H club members.

The format of the program was similar to the earlier State College radio talks and included dramatic skits, news, interviews and discussions. On the week of June 28th to July 3rd, 1937, for example, the scheduled features were “Making Good Hay“, “Selling Fruits and Vegetables“, “Supply and Expert Situation of American Tobacco“, “State College Farm and Home Week“, “Timely Poultry Practices” and a 4-H Club program on Saturday. Within a few months of its 1935 debut, Carolina Farm Features could be heard across the state as mimeographed scripts were sent out to five different stations. This program was later succeeded by the Tar Heel Farm Hour in 1954, hosted by Jeter, and produced by NC State with the NC Association of Broadcasters.

National Farm and Home Hour (1928 – 1958, NBC, WPTF)

Frank H. Jeter, director of publications for NC State, seated with ladies for a broadcast of the National Farm and Home Hour. The woman in the middle is Ruth Current, State Home Demonstration Agent following the retirement of Jane S. McKimmon. This photo is dated from the 1940s.

The National Farm and Home Hour was a variety program co-sponsored by NBC Radio and the U. S. Department of Agriculture as a public service, running on a weekday afternoon time slot. The program was based in Chicago, but broadcast from different farms throughout the United States. A highlight of the 1937 extension report was the appearance of local farmers on an special broadcast of this series which is also detailed in the April 23rd issue of The Technician.

Unfortunately modern sources indicate that no surviving episodes of the National Farm and Home Hour broadcast from North Carolina or before 1944 are known to exist. To hear a sample of this program go the UCLA Collections page of the J. Walter Brown Media Archive of the University of Georgia at Athens.

State and National 4-H Broadcasts

Halifax County, 4-H Council Meeting in 1939 for National Negro 4-H Radio Broadcast and club

Farmers and agricultural students from North Carolina A&T State University, NC State College and regional youth throughout the state appeared in local 4-H radio broadcasts and the National 4-H Club Radio Program. Two youth who gained national attention were Walton Thompson, a young man who earned a full-ride scholarship to NC State and appeared on the National Farm and Home Hour and Town Meeting of the Air, and Lydia Mae Barbee whose Washington, D.C., broadcast added special honors to the North Carolina Negro 4-H programs. A press release about Barbee can be seen in this issue of the Indianapolis Recorder. 4-H activities, information, interviews and special events were broadcast occasionally throughout most of the 1930s until a twice-monthly program began in 1938 under the direction of “Mr. 4-H”, L. R. Harrill. Harrill’s weekly 4-H broadcasts were popular and would run until the early 1960s. A similar program known as the 4-H Club of the Air was broadcast from station WAIR in Winston-Salem.

As we work more with the “Better Living In North Carolina” project there will be future posts on early instructional technology from the extension. In the meantime please visit the Rare and Unique Digital Collections site for more on the history of the Cooperative Extension.

Today there are dozens of radio (and television) programs aired weekly throughout the state on agricultural topics which are listed by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.

For more information about state radio programs designed to reach farmers and a history of how extension radio broadcasting began in NC read:

Clark, J. W. (1984). Clover all over: North Carolina 4-H in action. Raleigh: NCSU, 4-H & Youth. Also available online.

Clark, J. W. (2011). Clover all over: North Carolina’s first 4-H century, 1909-2009. Raleigh, N.C: Published by the North Carolina 4-H Development Fund, in cooperation with Ivy House Pub. Group.

Carpenter, W. L., & Colvard, D. W. (1987). Radio to reach the farmers. Knowledge is power: A history of the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University, 1877-1984. Raleigh, N.C: North Carolina State University. Also available online.

Troyer, J. R. (1993). Nature’s champion: B.W. Wells, Tar Heel ecologist.

Newspaper citations for quoted radio broadcast dates, titles and histories:

College extends broadcast service. (1936, January 9). Morrisville Tribune, The State Farmer Section, p. 2.

Farm broadcast will aid farmers. (1930, April 30). Danbury Reporter

Radio speaker. (1935, May 18). Indianapolis Recorder, p. 13.

Specialists offer mid-summer advice. (1937, July 1). Beaufort News, p. 3.

State college broadcasting program over wptf, raleigh, n.c., during june and july. (1929, June 14). Marshall News-Record.

Mar 23 2015

Growth from the Grassroots: Agricultural Awareness Week

In honor of Alpha Zeta’s annual Agricultural Awareness Week, beginning March 23, 2015, the Special Collections Research Center presents an exhibit in the Ask Us Lobby of D.H. Hill Library to highlight the farming men and women who have shaped the evolution of agriculture and technology in North Carolina.

From its roots as an agricultural experiment station, North Carolina State University has been interwoven into this evolution through teaching, research, and extension work that has supported local farming communities and organizations. Partnerships between NC State and the small farmers of North Carolina have pioneered innovative approaches to sustainability through times of major change, from the early industrial revolution through today.

Small farmers who relied solely on cash-crop cultivation suffered after World War II as cotton and tobacco prices plummeted, demand decreased, and overproduction glutted the market.  By growing more of their own food, farm families could provide their own sustenance without exhausting their meager cash supply. Publications like the Progressive Farmer newspaper and the D&P Monthly (Dairyman and Poultryman) circulated information to rural communities, and grassroots organizations like the North Carolina Farmers Bureau formed to give farmers a unified voice on agricultural issues. 4-H clubs and the Future Farmers of America supported agricultural education and leadership among rural youth. Annual conferences brought farmers together to learn from each other and from experts in agricultural research, frequently featuring presentations from NC State faculty and cooperative extension agents.  North Carolina agriculture evolved through these networks of support, empowering farming men and women to grow and negotiate economic and legislative policies in a changing agrarian economy.

The exhibit will highlight the evolution of farming practices and home-grown agricultural organizations in North Carolina that tell the story of the people who cultivated and developed our state.  Materials will be on display starting March 23, 2015, in the Ask Us Lobby of D.H. Hill Library.

The Special Collections Research Center has a wealth of materials that show the rich history of small farming and agricultural sustainability in North Carolina. The North Carolina Farm Bureau Records and North Carolina Agricultural Organizations Records reflect the leadership of farmers in their local communities and grassroots organizations. The Green N’ Growing project highlights materials from the Cooperative Extension Service, and Cultivating a Revolution and Living off the Land show the evolution of agricultural research, education, and farming practices in North Carolina. Our digital collections portal, Historical State, also contains a wide array of resources on agriculture in  North Carolina and at NC State in particular.

Jul 01 2013

Cultivating a Revolution project wraps up

Testing a Cucumber Harvester in the field

Yesterday marked the final day of our two-year project to digitize and make accessible over 40,000 pages of documents critical to understanding the history of agriculture in North Carolina.  “Cultivating a Revolution: Science, Technology, and Change in North Carolina Agriculture, 1950-1979” serves students, teachers, researchers, and the general public by documenting the development of modern agricultural practices and their economic impact across the state of North Carolina.  The industry currently generates $70 billion in value annually in the state. Drawing from thirteen different archival collections held by the Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, “Cultivating a Revolution” provides primary source documentation and valuable historical information about the evolution of modern agricultural practices in North Carolina and the southeastern United States at large.

Highlights of the collection include drawings by Dr. William Johnson, Dr. William Splinter, and their graduate assistants, in the College of Agriculture and Life Science, of their designs for tobacco harvesters and bulk curing barns; correspondence with the international academic and business community regarding developments at NC State on bulk curing and mechanized harvesting of tobacco and other crops; and documentation of research into pesticide development, plant disease prevention, and genetic modification of crops.

The Farm of the Future

In addition to the text and photographic materials, over one hundred and fifty 16mm films from the University Archives Film Collection and the Department of Biological and Agricultural Records at NC State are now available online.  The films include interviews with scientists, engineers, extension workers, and farmers who developed and applied innovative agricultural practices, as well as footage of the application of these practices around North Carolina. The films include interviews with the creators and users of the newly developed bulk curing barns in the mid-1960s, a visit to the NC State Dairy Farm in the 1950s, and test runs of sweet potato and cucumber harvesters at the university’s research stations.

The funds to support this work were awarded by the State Library of North Carolina and are made possible through funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

Design for a better way to house cattle

The “Cultivating a Revolution” website at www.lib.ncsu.edu/specialcollections/projects/cultivating-a-revolution.html provides more information on the project and links to the digitized materials. The NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Materials website at go.ncsu.edu/cultivatingarevolution also makes it easy to access the digitized materials from the project.

Jun 13 2013

Expanding the Farm Income of North Carolina and the NC 2000 Commission

The Cultivating a Revolution project team has just finished digitizing the project reports series from the Department of Horticulture Records.  Included in the series is a folder that holds a report that was requested by Governor Jim Hunt in 1982 from the College of Agriculture and Life Science on how North Carolina could expand it’s production in agriculture in areas beyond tobacco.  The report was to be included in a finalized report about the future of the state’s economy as a whole that was to be put together by the “Commission on the Future of North Carolina” or as it was commonly known, NC 2000.

The letter sent out to department faculty soliciting input for this report reflects a growing reality in the early 1980s in NC agriculture – that tobacco was going to fade as the primary crop of NC and that new crops needed to be identified that could become a good source of income for NC farmers.  The Dean of the School of Agriculture wrote:

“In 1981 tobacco accounted for a major portion of the farm income in North Carolina and was among our most profitable agricultural enterprise in terms of returns to capital investment, labor, and management.  Although the “tobacco program” will undoubtedly undergo modification to comply with the federal mandate that the program operate at no cost to the federal government, tobacco will undoubtedly remain a primary source of agricultural income in North Carolina.  It is, however, incumbent on our School to identify other profit generating agricultural enterprises for North Carolina farmers.”

In the report there are maps of assorted crops that the horticulture faculty thought had the potential to be greatly expanded in the state, including many that we identify as primary NC crops today in 2013, such as strawberries, blueberries, sweet potatoes, and cucumbers.

Strawberry production by county, 1977-1979

Blueberry production by county, 1977-1979

To read the whole report, visit our site here. And to learn more about the Department of Horticulture and other materials digitized as part of the Cultivating a Revolution project, check our website: http://go.ncsu.edu/car

Jun 06 2013

Politicians and Agriculture in NC

A lot of the materials we’ve digitized for the Cultivating a Revolution project is work of faculty and students at NCSU and also highlights the work of ordinary farmers in testing the research.  But these are not the only people that shaped the economy of agriculture in the mid 20th century.  Politicians and the government also played a large role in shaping agriculture policy (as they still do today, with items such as the Farm Bill that is currently up for debate in Congress.)  Several of the films digitized for the project are clips of speeches given by local and national politicians about various aspects of agriculture policy.  A few of those films are highlighted below.

Lt. Governor of NC Jim Hunt discussing his past experience with agriculture

President John F. Kennedy speaking at a national dairy convention in 1963

Senator Jesse Helms discussing the 1977 Agriculture Act

Commissioner of NC Agriculture, Jim Graham on anti-tobacco proponents in NC

To view more films from the project and other digitized materials, visit http://go.ncsu.edu/cultivatingarevolution.

May 23 2013

Agriculture learning through Continuing Education Schools

Contributed by Holly Withrow.

In addition to the Agricultural Chemicals School, now the Crop Protection School, discussed in our blog post last week, many other continuing education programs related to agriculture are held here at NCSU.  These include schools such as the “Peach School,” and the “Apple Pest Control School.”

Above is an example for a program for an Annual Peach School, put on by NCSU.  This school is one of many that NC State sponsored over the years to reach out to the public and keep them up to date and educated on many fields related to agriculture.

Above is a diagram of the life-cycle of Apple Blotch Fungus, a handout from the 1949 session.  The Apple Pest Control School was held in two locations, Hendersonville and Wilkesboro.  The Plant Pathology department had received so many inquiries about this subject from apple growers and had not had enough personnel to address them all.  To solve this problem, the Apple Pest Control Schools were designed to focus on the pressing issues of disease, rodents, and insects and their effects on apple production.

To get more information on these and other Schools held by the Plant Pathology Department and other departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, check out the Cultivating a Revolution project!

May 16 2013

Agricultural Chemicals School

Front of the 1971 Program

Back of the 1971 Program

The 5,300 students who graduated last weekend at PNC Arena are not the only type of student that North Carolina State University serves.  Continuing education, particularly for farmers, is something that NCSU has been involved in since the university opened its doors over a century ago.  Recognizing that many of those who could most use the information learned in research done at the university are not the regular college-aged student, “schools” such as the Agricultural Chemical School have been held annually to teach in a short period of time (usually a week, or weekend) the newest information about a particular topic.

Comments and Suggestions from Attendees to the 1960 School

The Agricultural Chemical School or “Pesticide School” was started in 1948 and was typically held over a weekend in January, the off-season for farmers.  It was attended by both farmers and those in the pesticide development industry and educated the attendees on the latest research and techniques on pesticide use, both being done at NCSU and across the country.  The program has remained popular and continues to this day, although the School is currently called the Crop Protection School and is run jointly by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Office of Professional Development, a unit of Continuing & Professional Education.  he focus of the School today remains much the same as when it started, to “present information on the effectiveness, safe application, and proper use of agricultural chemicals for the benefit of dealers, applicators, formulators, manufacturers, county Extension agents, farm superintendents, vocational agriculture teachers, and other agricultural leaders.”  The Special Collections Research Center, as part of the Cultivating a Revolution digitization project, has just completed digitization of all the materials held in the Agriculture Chemicals School Records.  Those materials can be found here.

Tally of types of Registrants to the School in 1967

To learn about the history of other continuing education programs at NCSU in agriculture, check out our digitization project, “Cultivating a Revolution.”

May 02 2013

Plant Disease Clinic

Contributed by Holly Withrow.

One of the more important aspects of a Plant Pathologists job is diagnosing plant diseases for farmers via inspecting specimens.  In North Carolina, where the range of crops grown is so vast, plant pathologists are an especially important aspect of keeping crops healthy.

In a recent collection of digitized papers from the Plant Pathology department, the development of the Plant Disease Clinic at North Carolina State University is detailed.  Up until 1951, only one Extension Plant Pathologist was available to examine specimens.  Over time, and in relation to the spread of black shank disease of tobacco, the number of specimens needing to be examined rose dramatically.  To answer this need, the Plant Disease Clinic was born.  Its goal was to systematically and quickly analyze the specimens given to the Plant Pathology department.  Farmers would send in information about diseases affecting their crops and the plant pathologists would help them figure out what it was and how to treat it.  The records that have been digitized help to show what diseases have afflicted plants in North Carolina since the 1950s.

The program was so successful that it continues until this day.  To find out about the workings of the Clinic presently, check out it’s website. For more history on the Plant Disease Clinic, check out the Cultivating a Revolution project.

Apr 25 2013

Plant Pathology in Space?

Contributed by Holly Withrow.

While scanning materials for the Cultivating a Revolution digitization project, I discovered in a folder of papers from the Plant Pathology Department of North Carolina State University dated from the 1960s a paper suggesting that NASA should focus a little more on Plant Pathology.

The unnamed author suggests that while NASA should rightly focus on how man fares in space, they should also focus on other forms of life – specifically parasites of the plants that man depends on for food.  The effects of atmospheric differences on the plants and their parasites should be evaluated to see how well they could survive on, for instance, the moon.  They also suggest that this is not only important for the sake of nutrition, but also to consider in the case of biological warfare in space.  The author even attached some studies on pathogenesis in plants that he thought would be especially useful.

Of course at this point, NASA has researched some aspects of plants in space, but how exciting it seems for someone from an agricultural program in North Carolina in the 1960s to already be considering the impact of agricultural research on space exploration.  Someone was definitely thinking ahead!

To find out more about historical documents from the Department of Plant Pathology, check out the Cultivating a Revolution project.