Agricultural Research Stations Date to 1877

On April 19, 1877, the first agricultural experiment station opened in a one-room chemistry lab at UNC. It was the first such station in the South, and the second in the nation.

A movement had been building to found the research station since 1885, when the General Assembly directed the Board of Agriculture to start acquiring land and machinery for it. The actual legislation establishing the station was passed in February 1877 with a focus on research that would aid in plant nutrition and develop new fertilizers.

In 1889, management of the station was transferred to what is now N.C. State University. The change was the result of the federal Hatch Act, which sent federal funds for agricultural research to the states through land grant colleges.

At the same time, the N.C. Department of Agriculture began establishing “test farms” across the state to try different crop, fertilizer and soil combinations and discover which crops were best suited to particular regions.

The Border Belt Tobacco Research Station in Whiteville, circa 1940. Image from NCSU Libraries.

The program has continued to grow, and today the department and the N.C. State jointly operate 18 research stations around the state.

Other related resources:

  • Historical photos of agriculture from the State Archives

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