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150th Anniversary of the Morrill Act

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[In 1862,] Rutgers College accepted the added commitment as a land-grant institution with the passage of the Morrill Act. This act specified that the annual income derived from the sale of public lands which had been allotted on the basis of 30,000 acres for each senator and representative in Congress, should be paid to the Trustees of Rutgers College. This money, a little more than $5,000 in annual payments, was a "nest egg" and with supplemental state and federal appropriations for faculty, equipment, buildings, and land...

Besides making provisions for resident instruction and research, the Morrill Act charged the Board of Trustees to provide at least one free lecture about agriculture in each county every year.

Willing as they were to comply, the trustees found that taking the college to the people put some severe strains on the resident teaching staff. As the lectures sharpened farmers' appetites for more knowledge, they were supplemented with bulletins, reports, and new articles.

Those early professors with the Extension vision channeled their information through meetings of county boards of agriculture, farmers' institutes, and later by agricultural trains bearing exhibits and lectures that went from town to town.

These statewide activities proved a serious drain on the time of resident professors. The volume of knowledge kept expanding and so did the requests for help from farmers.

About two years before the passage of the New Jersey Farm Demonstration Act, the farmers of Sussex County got together with the Lackawanna Railroad and the local chamber of commerce, to form the first formal Cooperative Extension program in this state [in 1912]. Read more about RCE's history in New Jersey (295k PDF).

(Excerpted from the RCE Policy Handbook, 2000)