A wide literature in the sociology of agriculture has depicted the development of agricultural experiment stations at land grant colleges as part of a development project to improve agricultural productivity in particular commodities. Some experiment stations developed regional agricultural centers or stations to improve productivity and address local concerns, recognizing the importance of context in rural development. Through analysis of one such station, the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center in Southern Illinois, this paper describes how regional agricultural stations played a key role in the often conflicting agricultural programs of and following the New Deal. Changes in university structure from the 1970s to present and the current national recession have led to financial crises that have put these stations in a precarious position. Still, we argue that these institutions ought to be recognized as regional resources for a new era of agricultural development, and we suggest approaching that new era by building on the existing literature of community–university partnerships.
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While the American Country Life Association was a significant movement and existed into the 1970 s, it was ultimately one of many efforts Roosevelt pushed to alter agricultural institutions. These efforts, including the Resettlement Administration, were generally overshadowed by the transformation caused by productivist agriculture (Busch 2005).
See also Middendorf and Busch (1997) for a broader narrative of the changing focus of scientific inquiry that followed the widespread concern regarding the role of the state.
Public participation was not new to agricultural development programs. In the late 1930s and 1940s the federal government, via the New Deal, encouraged public participation in the Unified Farm Program, which coordinated the activities of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the Soil Conservation Service, and the Farm Security Administration. See also Gilbert (2008).
Charlotte Bernard, personal communication, January 16, 2009.
In Crop Sciences, current work focuses on soybeans, sorghum, miscanthus, corn, hybrids, drought tolerance, and sulfur management, with an emphasis on disease insect weed and drought management. Horticulture covers high tunnel construction (especially for tomatoes and strawberries), corn earworm studies, and research on viticulture. The forest research center does outreach to landowners, studies exotic species, and conducts field days and a stewardship week where over 3,000 school children come to DSAC each year. In Animal Sciences, work focuses on beef cattle genomics and reproduction research, cow-calf operations, pastured cattle, and organic beef. DSAC also hosts a sustainable living expo and a summer intern program to bridge research and education.
Agricultural Adjustment Act
Dixon Springs Agricultural Center
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Thanks are given to Bronwyn Aly for conducting interviews and to anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions which truly enriched this paper. Support for this research was provided by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through Hatch project ILLU-875-368.
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Ganning, J.P., Flint, C.G. & Gasteyer, S. A case study from the post-new deal state agricultural experiment station system: a life of mixed signals in southern Illinois. Agric Hum Values 29, 493–506 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-012-9373-y