1912 to 1914 - Kansas Agricultural Agents
Thorough, Practical With a Theoretical Knowledge of Agriculture
written by Donna Casement, State Library of Kansas
KGI Online Library Blog -- September 23, 2020
(All copies of newspaper articles cited here
“The county agent movement is an effort to place in as many counties as possible, men with a thorough, practical and theoretical knowledge of agriculture, to co-operate with the farmers individually and through their organization, towards the solution to farm problems,” said Edward C. Johnson, Superintendent of the Farmers’ Institute and a state leader in county and district agricultural work in Kansas. This movement would create an avenue between new farming technology and farming communities throughout Kansas in the early twentieth century.
“Its purpose is to make the best agricultural information of the day, common and applied knowledge, whether that information is a result of the experience of successful farmers, or of the investigation of the agricultural experiment stations and of the Federal Department of Agriculture." (#1-“County Agents Work” by Edward C. Johnson, Kansas Farmer, March 28, 1914)
The Farmers’ Institute, established in 1868, provided agricultural education activities under the supervision of the faculty of the Kansas State College of Agriculture. In 1912, the Board of Regents at the Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science, adopted a resolution which favored placing an adviser in each county of the state, and that the administration of the county advisor’s work be placed within the Department of Extension. The County Farm Bureau would work under the direction of Edward Johnson, Superintendent of the Farmers’ Institute beginning in September 1, 1912. (Kansas Cooperative Extension Service 1914-1989, E. H. Teagarden and R. L. Johnson, 1991)
“Agricultural agents and farm bureau work in Kansas is rapidly gaining in favor with the people served and in results obtained. Commencing with the formation of the Leavenworth Progressive Agricultural Club in 1911, and the appointment of the agent for Leavenworth county, August 1, 1912. The number of county farm bureaus employing county agents has increased to nine, while four district agricultural agents, covering six or more counties each, have been employed,” wrote Edward C. Johnson, Superintendent of Agricultural Institutions and Demonstrations. (“Agricultural Agents and Farmers’ Bureaus: Development and Growth of Agricultural Agent and Farm Bureau Work in Kansas” by Edward C. Johnson, 1913-14, 19th Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture)
The Leavenworth County Progressive Agricultural Association hired P. H. Ross, a Kansas State Agricultural College graduate, who would become an important ingredient in the successful farming practices of Leavenworth County beginning in 1912. Ross’ contract stated he would advise any farm in the county requesting his services, organize farmers clubs, conduct corn clubs and other agricultural contest, arrange for exhibits of agricultural produce, give practical demonstrations and instruction in crop rotation, soil building, farm management, livestock, dairying, horticultural work, ect., and he is to cooperate with the superintendents of county and city schools, in teaching the rudiments of agriculture. (#2-The Leavenworth Post, August 3, 1912)
The contract further stated Ross would be “ready at all times” to cooperate with existing agencies, such as breeders’ associations, farmers institutes, county fair association, country life associations or any other association that have their objectives for having the best agricultural, commercial, social and material interests of the county. The Leavenworth County Progressive Club would provide him an office, living expenses and a horse and buggy.
In the following two years, county and district agricultural agents included E. J. Macy, Montgomery County on March 1, 1913, O. P. Drake, Cowley County on March 1, 1913, W. E. Watkins, Allen County, May 1, 1913, F. P. Lane, Harvey County, June 1, 1913, H. L. Popehoe, Lyon County, May 15, 1914 and H. B. Fuller, Linn County, June 1, 1914 who resigned to work for U.S. Department of Agriculture and was replaced by C. K. Peck who began work on September 1, 1914, Ambrose D. Folker, Jewell County, June 1, 1914 and O. C. Hagans, Miami County, June 15, 1914. (1913-14, 19th Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture)
In March 1913, Farm Bureau began its work in Cowley County. Farm Bureau agent O. P. Drake described his first year on the job to the Kansas Farmer newspaper. “Up to the last of December, I traveled about 2,500 miles, visited farms in all parts of the country and addressed 24 meetings, with a total attendance of 1,569 people. It is the purpose of the bureau and myself to push the organization work wherever it seems advisable and to push the development of the county along the lines of livestock and dairying, believing that the county should be famous for good stock.” (#3- “Cowley County Farm Bureau”, by O.P. Drake, Kansas Farmer, Topeka, March 28, 1914)
District agricultural agents covered six or more counties and were appointed to “give instructions and practical demonstrations in agriculture and to help in securing the adoption of better organized farm practices and a richer social and educational life in rural communities in the state. Each man is selected for his special fitness for the district he is to serve, and therefore the things emphasized are those of most importance for the community as well as those in which the agent is especially trained.” (1913-14, 19th Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture)
The first district agricultural agents and appointment dates were:
•W. A. Boys, west central Kansas, Hays, February 1, 1913.
•Clyde McKee, northwest Kansas, Norton, February 1, 1913, resigned October 15, 1913; H. T. Neilsen filled vacancy February 1, 1914.
•G. E. Thompson, southwest Kansas, Dodge City, February 1, 1913, resigned October 1, 1913 to become superintendent of substations with the Kansas Agricultural College; Lee H. Gould filled vacancy October 1, 1913.
•H. J. Bower, southeast Kansas, Parsons, March 1, 1913, transferred to Extension Division as expert in soils, October 1, 1914; C. G. Elling filled vacancy. (1913-14, 19th Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture)
District agricultural agent jobs included farm visits, field work and numerous meetings and campaigns. Meetings were funded by a variety of sources. Agent H. J. Bower described some of his work. “Since October 1, my time has been spent on farmers’ institute circuits, farmers’ local meetings and county school house campaigns. The campaigns in Labette and Wilson counties were financed and advertised by the bankers’ associations of the respective counties. About 1,500 attended the week’s meetings in Labette County and 800 in Wilson. A similar campaign in Cherokee County was financed by the Kansas Agricultural College and cooperation was had in advertising with the county superintendent, county farmers’ institutes, school teachers and local farmers of each district. About 900 farmers attended the twelve meetings. The total number of meetings addressed from October 1 to December 20 was 57, with a total attendance of 5,800.” (#4- “District Problems Big”, Kansas Farmer, Topeka, March 28, 1914)
District agent W. A. Boys resided in Hays and was responsible for counties within west central Kansas. Like the majority of county and district agents, Boys’ salary was provided by community businesses and various agricultural organizations. The use of his Harley motorcycle was a cheap and convenient way to navigate the hundreds of miles he would travel in his job as district agent. Boys planned dozens of meetings that would bring together farmers and cattlemen with agricultural results from the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Stations at Hays and Manhattan.
“Another big cattleman’s meeting is to be held next week. The Kansas Agricultural Experiment Stations at Hays and Manhattan have arranged a meeting of the stockmen and cattle breeders of Kansas, Colorado, and the Pan-Handle at Hays, Kan., Friday May 1. The results of feeding experiments upon cattle under range conditions will be the feature of the meeting. Luncheon will be served at noon. The introductory talk will be made by George K. Helder, superintendent of the Fort Hays station. “What the Kansas Experiment Stations Are and Their Field of Work” will be the subject of an address by W. M. Jardine, director of these stations and dean of agriculture at the Kansas State Agricultural College. W. A. Boys will speak on “Stock Feed Suited to Western Kansas Growing.” “Feeding Beef Cattle Experimentally” will be the subject of an address by W. A. Cochel, head of the department of animal husbandry at the Kansas Agricultural College.” (#5-The Kansas Industrialist, Manhattan, April 25, 1914)
“When the county agent was first started in Kansas, the salary of the agents and expenses of the farm bureaus, amounting to $2,000 to $3000 per year, were paid by the local subscriptions of farmers and business men, by funds from the Federal Department of Agriculture and the Crop Improvement Committee of Chicago. This committee furnished $1,000 to any county agreeing to conduct the work for two years until 100 counties had been supplied. The other funds necessary for two years work were raised through the splendid aggressive work of the businessmen of the various towns, and of leading farmers of each county.” (#1-“County Agents’ Work”, by Edward C. Johnson, Kansas Farmer, March 28, 1914)
The Kansas State Agricultural College and district agents would utilize demonstration tours and the vast network of rail lines to bring meetings and demonstrations to their agricultural communities.
The Forage Crop Special Train demonstration utilized the Union Pacific Railroad and agricultural specialists to visit with 21 cities in Kansas and nine cities in Colorado, within a six-day schedule in September of 1913. “The whole purpose of the work is to help the farmers help themselves, and thus build up a more prosperous community. The train will carry some of the most noted agronomists and agricultural experts in the country-ten or fifteen of them, because a large number of speakers will be required to take care of the six to eight meetings to be held at the same time.” (#6-The Bunker Hill Advertiser, September 4, 1913)
The Santa Fe railroad and the Kansas State Agricultural College co-opted a demonstration train circuit that would run for a week in November 1913. District agent Lee Gould and A. S. Neale of the agriculture extension department spoke on the circuit. “Another demonstration train is being scheduled for west Kansas. This time the Kansas State Agricultural College and the Santa Fe railroad are cooperating in running a silage and livestock special over the Santa Fe lines in southwest Kansas. The needs of this vast “sorghum empire” have been carefully studied and that it should fulfill its destiny and become a great forage and livestock region, will be emphasized on this train,” said District Agent Lee Gould and A. S. Neale of the extension department.” (#7-The Dodge City Globe, October 9, 1913)
The March 28, 1914 issue of the Kansas Farmer newspaper highlighted the need and value of the first year’s work of agricultural agents. The paper explained that agents had been at work in Kansas because of the need for a relationship between the Department of Agriculture, the agricultural colleges and the farmers and ranchers throughout the country.
“The Federal Department of Agriculture and the agricultural colleges and experiment stations have, for over half a century, been investigating numerous questions concerned with the interest of the farmers of the country and our development as a whole,” the Kansas Farmer wrote. “Vast amounts of information have been accumulated during this period, which, if it could be intelligently grafted upon the practice of this great industry, would do much to promote the development of the country as a whole, and return to the individual farmer a greater net income as well.” (#8- “Tryout of Agricultural Agents in Kansas”, Kansas Farmer, March 28, 1914)
Harvey County agent Frank P. Lane organized an all-day, silo and silage automobile excursion in the spring of 1914. “The excursion was an all-day trip. The party which numbered just eighty men, all but ten actively engaged in farming, was carried in seventeen cars. The start was made at Newton, and the trip extended through Sedgwick, Putnam, and Halstead. The automobile excursion method of demonstration aroused enthusiasm among those who took the trip.” (#9-The Kansas Industrialist, Manhattan, May 2, 1914)
County agent F. P. Lane believed that an important phase of the county agent’s work was the promotion of farmer meetings. "The farmer does not need to be encouraged to work harder or to apply himself closer to his business, but rather to get away from the farm oftener and see what his neighbor is doing; to attend meetings of his fellows and to get the benefit of their successes and failures." (“The Value of Demonstration Tours”, by F. P. Lane, 1913-14, 19th Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture)
In 1914, the Smith-Lever Act would change the organization and composition of Kansas agricultural services. The Smith-Lever Act established a system of cooperative extension services that would be connected to land grand universities. J. H. Miller, dean of college extension, said “Kansas will receive $10,000 for the year beginning July 1, 1914; and for the succeeding years, $24,556, $35,646, $48,816, $60,946, $73,076, $85,206, $96,336 and $109,466. This appropriation is to be used for instruction and demonstration in agriculture and home economics for persons not resident at the agricultural college. It is not necessary for Kansas to make a duplicate appropriation in order to get $10,000 per anum, but if it wishes to receive the increased appropriations, it must duplicate every dollar of increase.” (#10-The Kansas Industrialist, June 13, 1914)
Governor George H. Hodges gave his immediate consent because the legislature was not in session at that time. The consent of the governor secured the appropriation of $10,000 from the state but did not commit the legislature to duplicate the amount. Dean Miller went on to say, “The work done with this money must be carried on in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, which means that no work can be undertaken that does not meet the approval of that department. For the first year, the Smith-Lever fund must be used for county and district agricultural agents and for movable schools in agriculture and home economics.”
“Kansas Share Is $109,472, For Farm Development in the State of Kansas Provided the State”, is the headline of The Weekly Gazette Globe for September 30, 1915 (#11). Of the $4,750,000 to be spent during 1915 and 1916 in farm demonstration work, by the joining co-operation of the federal and state governments and the various agricultural colleges and agricultural organizations in the different state, the state of Kansas will share to the extent of $109,472.”
The article also state, "The breakdown of the funding available through the Smith-Lever Act is as follows: Federal Smith-Lever funds, $24,555; state Smith-Lever funds, $14,555; Department of Agriculture funds, $12,800; and a total of $57,560 available from state, college and other sources.”
State and county agricultural extension work in Kansas had cultivated the agricultural communities for the arrival of this influx of federal, state and local monies. In utilizing this money, it was determined that each county would house a permanent headquarters to be under the supervision of a county agent, who would be the expert on agricultural matters. By 1920 nearly half of Kansas counties employed a county agent.