Educating Farmers on Educational Trains

Amy Bishop, rare books and manuscript curator, at our exhibit table in the Iowa State Capitol's rotunda for Silos & Smokestacks Legislative Showcase.

Amy Bishop, rare books and manuscript curator, at our exhibit table in the Iowa State Capitol’s rotunda for Silos & Smokestacks Legislative Showcase.

Yesterday my colleague Amy Bishop & I attended the Silos & Smokestacks Annual Partner Site Meeting & Legislative Showcase in Des Moines. There are 115 partner sites that constitute Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area (SSNHA) and all of the partner sites preserve and tell the story of American agriculture in some way. National Heritage Areas are places designated by Congress where natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to tell a story that celebrates our nation’s diverse heritage. Special Collections & University Archives are a partner site for SSNHA.

We attended educational sessions in the morning and in the afternoon we put on a tabletop exhibit about a website created during a summer internship, Reflections on ISU Extension, that was funded by an SSNHA grant in 2014. The intern developed a digital collection and contributed to the design of its accompanying website. The collection offers a look into the early work of the Extension Service, its role in the education of farmers, and the impact it had on agricultural advancement and production. It is composed of documents, photographs, and select media.

One of the neatest things I learned from browsing through this digital collection was about the educational trains. The university (known then as Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm) sent instructors on trains throughout the state to teach classes on seed corn and other agriculture related topics of interest to Iowa’s farmers such as crops, livestock, and home economics.

 

Educational Trains. 1905. J. W. Jones speaking. M. L. Mosher helping. Audience in coach listens to a talk on producing better corn. Note the Holden sawdust corn testing box, a method by which 6 kernels of corn from each seed ear could be tested. Audience advised to plant only ears that tested six kernels strong.

Educational Trains. 1905. J. W. Jones speaking. M. L. Mosher helping. Audience in coach listens to a talk on producing better corn. Note the Holden sawdust corn testing box, a method by which 6 kernels of corn from each seed ear could be tested. Audience advised to plant only ears that tested six kernels strong.

 

On the Hog train. Snyder speaking soils man, ca. 1910s.

On the Hog train. Snyder speaking soils man, ca. 1910s.

 

Read more about the history of ISU Extension here: http://digitalcollections.lib.iastate.edu/sites/default/files/documents/ISUExt_History.pdf or view the Reflections on ISU Extension digital collection. You can always stop by and see original documents and photographs documenting the work of Extension or other collections related to agriculture. We’re open Monday-Friday 10-4.

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