How Cooperative Extension Educated People Through Farmer’s Insitutes
Marvin Beatty: Extension Specialist, Program Leader and Associate Dean 1956-1988
“For several decades, one of Cooperative Extension’s key means of spreading new, science-based information to rural audiences was through Farmers Institutes. These events were set up by the county agent, often in collaboration with retail merchants in the local town.
The program for these events was designed to appeal to both wives and husbands in farm families around the area. They featured speakers, usually from the university, with messages for both farmers and homemakers. They also included drawings at which lucky audience members whose names were drawn at random would receive a slip of paper which they could exchange for a quart of motor oil, a box of rubber rings for canning jars, or a pair of work gloves at the store of a participating local merchant.
Some institutes also featured opportunities for farmers to bring in samples of their silage or other cattle feed to be judged for quality. Being present at an institute where many of the attending farmers had brought samples of grass or corn silage for evaluation left lasting memories of the pungent aromas that filled the meeting room. These aromas mingled with the smells of baked beans, sauerkraut and hot dogs when the free lunch was served.
These institutes provided an opportunity for socializing with friends and neighbors, for getting new information along with a free lunch, and possibly also getting some useful free merchandise, if you were lucky. No wonder they were popular with farm families for decades.”