Friday, June 26, 2015

Life of an Aggie: Mizzou Educates America’s Farmers

A new exhibition presented by the Missouri Student Unions examines the history of the College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources. The display addresses themes of student life, activities and academics. We also take a look at the establishment of the College of Agriculture and its traditions including Barnwarming and the Farmers' Fair.  Please visit the exhibition in the Traditions Lounge on the second floor of the MU Student Center to learn more. The exhibition is on view now and runs through September 4, 2015.


Class in the Horticulture Lab, ca. 1905

(Courtesy of University Archives, C:0/3/8)

 Bidding for A College of Agriculture in MO

The 1862 Morrill Act, sponsored by Vermont Congressman Justin Smith Morrill, transferred federal lands to the states in order that the land be sold and the proceeds used to establish higher-education programs in agriculture, science, military science and engineering. The Missouri legislature voted in 1863 to accept the benefits of the Morrill Act, but did not proceed until 1870. 
Rivalries between Missouri cities for the agricultural college lead to a bidding war with each location touting the advantages of their sites: good soil in Sedalia, river ports in Rocheport and Lexington, and the metropolitan setting of St. Louis.  James S. Rollins, father of Mizzou and state legislator, designed a plan to garner political support for Columbia and Boone County from his peers in southeast Missouri by diverting some Morrill funds to begin a school of mining in the mineral-rich region. Support from legislators from Cole County was also won by a promise to use Morrill funds to support a teaching program at the historically-black college, Lincoln University. Rollins and other Boone County residents pledged money and land to complete the county’s bid for the agricultural school. Rollins succeeded in submitting the first plausible bid to the state legislation. Rollins’ bill passed the state house on February 2, 1870, and the state senate on February 9, 1870. Rollins’ political aptitude resulted not only in creating a center for advanced research and education in agriculture at Mizzou, but the formation of the still existing institutions of the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy (now Missouri University of Science and Technology) at Rolla and the teacher education program at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. (Summarized from Randy Mertens, “The Bidding War for CAFNR,” CAFNR News, October 10, 2014.)

In 1871, the inaugural year of the College of Agriculture, only 6 students enrolled. In 1895, the college had 41 official students. But after a slow beginning, the College of Agriculture grew to be the largest academic unit at MU in 1920 with 664 students. In 1974, 631 students were enrolled in the forestry program alone out of 1,850 total students in agricultural majors. Today, CAFNR has over 2,000 undergraduates in 15 different academic programs.

Dean F.B. Mumford addressing a class of agricultural students in Switzler Hall, the first agricultural building. Ca. 1900

(Courtesy of University Archives C:1/25/6)

Frederick Blackmar Mumford (1868-1946) served as the dean of the College of Agriculture from 1909 to his retirement in 1938. Mumford served on the State Board of Agriculture and established the University Extension Service with two agents assigned to each county in Missouri in 1913.

Dairy Course Students with Josephine

Ca. 1910-1911

(Courtesy of University Archives C:3/22/7)
‘Old Jo’, or MO Chief Josephine, brought worldwide attention to Missouri and the Department of Dairy Husbandry in 1910. ‘Old Jo’ produced 26,861.5 pounds of milk, containing 740 pounds of butterfat, in one year, which was the second best record in the world that year. Dairy husbandry courses were first offered at MU in 1895; the students pictured above were members of a "Short Course," a practicum-style course offered for those students could not attend year-round classes. For more information on dairy education at MU, check out the University Archives' online exhibition, "Cows on the Lawn: Dairy Husbandry at the University of Missouri, 1887-1930."

Student Traditions

Poster, 1916. (Courtesy of University Archives C:0/3/8)
 Farmers’ Week

Billed as the “Biggest Student Stunt in America,” Farmers’ Week, or as it was sometimes called the Farmer’s Fair, was an annual convention organized by the College of Agriculture. Events included a dance, a parade, an industry show with booths by vendors and student-ran activities, a horse show and livestock and crop judging exhibitions by nationally ranked MU judging teams. Educational sessions and lectures by faculty were available from each department of the college. Special sessions were held for children between the ages of 10-18 such as livestock judging instruction for boys and bread-making for girls.

First held in 1905, organized by students and supported by Dean Mumford, the event consisted of costumed Ag students parading around campus with the purpose of building student morale. By 1909, Dean Mumford and the students had expanded the event to a week-long celebration attended by farmers, researchers, and industry professionals. Five years later in 1914, 2600 people attended from 92 counties in Missouri and 19 states. Postponed for WWI, attendance continued to rise in the 1930’s and 40’s. MU’s Farmers’ Week became a template for similar events at other universities as visitors from around the world attended to see cutting-edge research by MU faculty.

The last Farmer’s Week was held in 1957.

Horticulture Exhibition, Farmers’ Fair, n.d.

(Courtesy of University Archives, C:0/46/7)

The basement of Jesse Hall played host to a display of competition-level corn samples during the Farmers’ Fair of 1919. (1919 Savitar, 2011.061)


Every fall of the early twentieth century, “Ags” transformed Rothwell Gym into a rural social club often with petting zoos, farm machinery, hay bales and corn stalks serving as decorations. The decorations ended the night as fuel for a bonfire. Students and alumni often danced and socialized into the wee hours. A highlight of the evening was the crowning of the Barnwarming Queen and the arrival of VIP guests on a mule-drawn wagon. One interesting tradition found any non-Aggie date, male or female, required to kiss a goat or sheep to gain entrance to the dance. 

In 2004, CAFNR students celebrated the 100th anniversary of Barnwarming during AgWeek with a dance and BBQ. Lorin Price, representing the MU Ambassadors, and Jared Verdught of Alpha Gamma Rho, were named queen and king respectively. Ag students continue the tradition of Barnwarming as part of the annual CAFNR Week, a celebration of agricultural studies at Mizzou.

Kissing the Goat, ca. 1966-69

(Courtesy of University Archives C:3/5/1)

Barnwarming Dance, ca. 1966-69
(Courtesy of University Archives C:3/5/1)

These are just highlights of the extensive exhibition on display in the Traditions Lounge until September 4, 2015.  Please stop by and view the original College Farmer magazines and a denim jacket worn by Farmers' Fair committee members in 1954.

Blog post authored by Sarah S. Jones, Curator of Public Arts, Missouri Student Unions.