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A look back at the Agricultural Experiment Station

Today @ Colorado State – January 13, 2009

In November of 1891, farmer L.A. Norland of LaJara, Colo. wrote to the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station at Fort Collins to request “the bulletin recently published by our State Agricultural College on the subject of artisan wells: particularly do I wish the information in regard to the wells in the San Luis Valley.” Mr. Norland’s request was only one of thousands of letters from not only Colorado residents, but people all over the nation and even across the Atlantic.

Lending a helping hand

The Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station served as one arm of the College’s land-grant mission of education, research, and outreach as the Station undertook pioneering studies that served the needs of Colorado’s agriculturalists.

The University Historic Photograph Collection, part of the University Archives, provides a visual narrative of the work of the Experiment Station and its place at Colorado State University, then and now.

The Hatch Act of 1887 built upon the Morrill Act of 1862 to provide federal funding matched by state funding to land-grant colleges for experimental work in agriculture. This work focused on animal husbandry, crops and soils, insect damage, irrigation, and home economics.

As a result of the Hatch Act, research began in 1879 at the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station in Fort Collins. The Colorado State Assembly appropriated funding for this Experiment Station and gave the charge for establishing substations at Cheyenne Wells, Del Norte, Rocky Ford, and Table Rock. Substations paved the way for those contending with Colorado’s wide-ranging agricultural needs by conducting research in different locations across the state.

Historical image of Sheep Feeders Day

In the beginning

The Experiment Station’s first departments solicited information from farmers and ranchers about their most pressing issues with the aim of cooperation and providing assistance backed by scientific research. All of the advice was free of charge to Colorado residents!

Through the Experiment Station faculty members participated in the research arm of the land-grant mission. Ainsworth Blount, professor of agriculture, developed a strain of wheat in the 1890s conducive to Colorado’s climate. Elwood Mead, an engineering professor, worked to improve irrigation in this semi-arid region, and William P. Headden, a chemist, considered the effects of agricultural chemicals on the environment. Numerous bulletins were published by the Experiment Station on a wide variety of topics including fruit trees, crop diseases, types of crops for non-irrigated land, feeding sugar beet pulp to cattle, and controlling smut in wheat, to name just a few.

A social event

The Experiment Station did not just provide printed information and exchange correspondence with farmers, but also invited people to the College for Feeders’ Day, which brought livestock producers to the campus for a look at the latest scientific research. Faculty members presented their research findings, answered questions, and offered advice. Moreover, the event functioned as a great way for farmers and ranchers to network and socialize.

Today, the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station continues to thrive as a research arm of the University and upholds the original charge to provide information gained from scientific research that is responsive to local needs. The Station continues to offer a valuable service to the people of Colorado and beyond.

This article was originally published in Around the Oval magazine. To subscribe to Around the Oval, become a member of the CSU Alumni Association.

Contact: Kate Legg
Phone: (970) 491-6533

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