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Oregon Mandates Teaching of Agriculture in Upper Grades

Public schools across the country began introducing hands-on agriculture as a supplement to the academic curriculum around 1900.  Oregon mandated that agriculture be taught in upper grades.

Many young women in rural schools had to try teaching a subject they knew little about.  Naturally, the children hated it.  Soon Oregon adopted the successful techniques of other states that offered popular agriculture clubs for boys and girl run by government extension agents.

In 1917, the Federal Smith-Hughes Act brought trained vocational agriculture teachers to secondary schools. In 1921, Medford hired C.D. Thompson, an Oregon Agriculture College graduate, Hood River orchardist and superintendent of schools, to be their first Smith-Hughes teacher.  Later, he became the Josephine County extension agent.

As one of the state’s 16 agriculture teachers, Thompson taught animal husbandry the first year and took three boys to the International Stock Show in Portland. The second year the program expanded to include plant husbandry, horticulture, and farm mechanics.

Many young men recalled the trip to Portland with Thompson as their first opportunity to travel outside the Rogue Valley.

Sources: O'Gara, P. J. "Agricultural Clubs in the Schools." The Rogue Magazine Mar. 1911. Print.  Stimson, Rufus, and Frank W. Lathrop. History of Agricultural Education of Less Than College Grade in the United States. Washington D. C.: Federal Security Agency, 1942. 376. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.  The Crater. Medford, Oregon: Medford High School, 1921. 114. Print.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.