A Century of Agriculture in San Joaquin County

Have you ever had the irresistible urge to study the history of San Joaquin County agriculture over the past century? Well, your moment has arrived. The San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum is pleased to announce the availability of its U.C. Agricultural Cooperative Extension Collection for San Joaquin County.

Extension agent Elizabeth Willis embarks on an advisory trip in San Joaquin County, 1923.

The collection documents the history of the University of California Agricultural Cooperative Extension in San Joaquin County from 1914 to 1994. It affords insights not only into the relationship between the U.S. government, the University of California, and San Joaquin County farmers, but also into the course of local agriculture during the first half of the twentieth century.

Also of note is material related to the history of the U.C. Agricultural Cooperative Extension Service throughout California, related legislative issues, and the history of the San Joaquin County Farm Bureau. The collection includes staff reports written yearly, monthly, and weekly; descriptions of projects and experiments; administrative files; published research; and photographs of staff members, projects, experiments, technologies, educational programs, and farm animals.

The U. C. Agricultural Cooperative Extension Service traces its origins to the Smith Lever Act of May 1914, federal legislation that established a system of cooperative agricultural services to work with public land grant universities throughout the United States. It was founded to facilitate the transfer of scientific knowledge from the classroom and laboratory to rural residents.

One month later, the first representative from the U.C. Agricultural Cooperative Extension set up residence in San Joaquin County. The program grew over the next half century, not only in the size of its staff and breadth of services, but also in popularity and the extent of its involvement in rural San Joaquin County.

Activities of the advisors included troubleshooting diseases of plants and animals, conducting information sessions, demonstrating new farming techniques, engaging in experiments, offering advice for housekeepers, educating young people, and sponsoring summer retreats. The program proved crucial during World Wars I and II, not only for successful efforts to coordinate increased agricultural production, but also for the role it played in addressing labor shortages.

Officials at the San Joaquin County branch of Cooperative Extension deeded the collection to the Museum in 2011. Since then, members of the Museum's staff have been preparing it for use by patrons. An online guide to the collection can be found at the Online Archive of California. The collection itself can be consulted in the Museum's library by appointment.

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