Rose Hayden-Smith speech - April 30, 2012
Italicized remarks delivered
April 30, 2012 UC Morrill Land Grant Celebration
This year marks the 150th anniversary, of four events key to American agriculture. In 1862, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was created, and three pieces of legislation were also passed that would forever change the face of the nation: including Morrill Land-Grant Act, which created America’s land-grant institutions, among them the University of California.
In 1862, when President Lincoln signed the Act into law, America was in its second year of the Civil War that threatened the nation’s very survival. It was an unsettled time. But in the case of the North, President Lincoln bravely charted a new direction that expressed a sense of optimism despite the war. That vision, that optimism, was based on his belief about land and its importance in American life. In 1860, farmers made up more than 50% of America’s labor force. Legislation such as the Morrill Land-Grant Act reflected the importance of farmers in American life, and reinforced the economic and social importance of agriculture to the nation’s future. The Morrill Act also demonstrated the increasing importance of encouraging a more scientific approach to agricultural production and education in the United States.
Americans have always had a special – an exceptional, even – relationship with the land. It is reflected throughout our history, from the Puritans who saw America as the New Jerusalem and the City on the Hill, to individuals such as Frederick Law Olmstead - who saw in the shaping of landscape the reforming of society, and the reflection of the best attributes of American culture - to the California farmers of today, who help feed the state, the nation…who help feed the world. During our nation’s first major entrance onto the stage of international events – during World War I – the notion of America as an agricultural powerhouse and a nation of abundance was reinforced in the world’s eyes. In World War I it was American agricultural productivity – not so much our industrial might – that helped Allied forces prevail, and saved millions of Europeans from starvation.
The influence of myth on identity is powerful. Americans are often presented (and frequently still view ourselves) as an agricultural people who have never entirely forgotten the Jeffersonian agrarian ideal and our nation's rural roots. Few of us practice agriculture today, but nearly all of us perpetuate the mythical status of farming and the importance of the farmer in American life (even if we don’t know one). As well we should. Food is fundamental.
One of the most sacred places in American life is our National Mall, where we memorialize and celebrate our shared purpose, our leaders, and our losses. Here is how we are exceptional: We are a nation that has placed its federal agency for agriculture on the National Mall…on sacred ground. I know many of you have visited the USDA’s offices in the Whitten Building, and like me, have probably been struck at its location, a site so central to American civic life and identity. With assistance from land-grant trained volunteers, the USDA operates a People’s Garden outside the Whitten Building, on the National Mall, on space that is sacred to our nation. Millions of people pass by this garden each year, a garden that links personal experiences with cultivation with larger themes of agriculture. A short distance away, visitors can see a vegetable garden on the South Lawn of the White House. These things say wonderful things about our nation: no land is too sacred for the very sacred act of cultivating food. We were a nation of farmers at origin: we are still a nation of farmers at heart.
The Land-Grant Act provided state governments with the ability to develop institutions that would provide higher education in agriculture, science and mechanical arts. The Act, with its vision of a public educational system, provided the framework for a much fuller democratization of American society, something that would play out several generations later, when America had fought through two world wars and survived a Great Depression. With its passage, all states were given blocks of land by the federal government that could be sold off by legislatures to fund these universities. Institutions to support agriculture and science education would arise from the land itself. The foundation was laid.
Justin Morrill first introduced the land-grant bill in the U.S. House of Representatives in December 1857; it was accepted by a narrow margin in April 1858. The Senate passed its own version, which was vetoed by then President Buchanan, who acceded to Southern interests opposed to the perceived growth of federal power that the Morrill Act represented (a political sentiment somewhat similar to that held by members of today’s Tea Party movement).
Later, however, President Lincoln proved very favorable to the idea of industrial education. In fact, agricultural education was a repeating campaign theme when he stumped for president. With the Southern congressional members who had opposed the Morrill Act now seceded from the Union, the legislation was reintroduced and signed into law on July 2nd, 1862.
In September 1862, Iowa became the first state to accept the gift offered by the Morrill Act. By 1870, 37 states had signed on. Expansion continued. A second Morrill Act in 1890 gave an additional boost to the land-grant system, by facilitating the creation of institutions serving African Americans in the Southern states. The land-grant movement grew. The population grew. The nation grew.
In California, the Morrill Act enabled the state to combine federal, state and private funds and efforts. The private College of California was part of the genesis of UC. This led to the creation of the University of California in 1868. Shortly after, a new campus was built on a tract of land near Oakland called “Berkeley”. The University of California, from humble beginnings, grew to become one of the world’s pre-eminent educational institutions, providing the knowledge and technical education that helped California become one of the world’s primary agricultural producers.
The Morrill Act was visionary, but it did not prove an immediate success. It took years for the states to take full advantage of the legislation, and even then, the connection between the production of knowledge at the land-grant institutions and its practical application by farmers was lacking. Some of the problems experienced led to further legislation in the form of the Hatch Act in 1877, which created funding for linked experiment stations to provide a practical place to help solve the problems of ordinary farmers, including citrus producers in California.
Responding to California’s needs
The Progressive Era and the period around World War I is one of the most interesting in the development of institutions such as UC, in part because of the passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914, which provided for Cooperative Agricultural Extension Work, a federal, state and county funding partnership that gave rise to the Cooperative Extension Service. The Morrill Act, then, becomes part of a linked and coherent continuum of legislation – Morrill, Hatch, the second Hatch Act, Smith-Lever.
Try to imagine the vision that linked all levels of government, the notion of creating institutions from the gift of public lands to serve the land and its people…it was a uniquely American idea. The importance of scientific agriculture and the role of land-grant institutions in promoting agricultural productivity on farms and in communities were highlighted during the Progressive Era and the world wars, when agricultural production and food security were viewed as being vital to national security and victory “over there”. National leaders feared an agricultural crisis. Land-grant institutions, including the University of California, responded to the perceived crisis.
In both World Wars, The University of California supported Victory Gardens in school, home and community settings through research and education. It helped reinforce the concepts of home food production and preservation, “buying local” and food conservation, enabling ordinary citizens to “do their bit” and help the nation achieve its wartime goals. “A soldier made is a farmer lost” the old adage says. In response to a universal male draft, UC trained women to work as agricultural laborers to alleviate shortages and to help farmers bring in the crop, challenging stereotypes about women’s ability to work in agriculture.
America’s productive agricultural sector - linked with an unprecedented and highly successful effort to turn the nation’s industrial might to wartime production - led to America’s WWII forces being among the most well-provisioned in history. These are the impacts of the Land-Grant Act.
UC’s groundbreaking efforts in school garden work and agricultural education, much done in the decade prior to World War I – including a program called the California Junior Gardeners - enabled a national program called the U.S. School Garden Army to gain traction and engage tens of thousands of urban and suburban youth in school, home and community gardening efforts across the state. At Ann Street Elementary School in downtown Ventura, where teachers had received UC training, students raised a reported two tons of potatoes for the war effort. Their contribution depressed the local market. These are the impacts of the Land-Grant Act.
Nearly a century later, UC remains a national leader in school, home and community garden work. UC advances research about the importance of agricultural and nutrition education and helps homeowners, school and communities launch successful gardening efforts with the support of approximately 5,000 UC Master Gardener volunteers working in 44 California counties; they provided 258,000 hours of service to California communities in 2010. These are the impacts of the Land-Grant Act.
Urban agriculture, an old model made new, thrived in the form of national Victory Garden efforts during World War I and World War II. Today, the model thrives again. UC is there, supporting urban gardening through programs such as UCCE Los Angeles’ Common Ground Program and its Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative. CE farm advisors and campus-based specialists work with small producers to find new markets closer to home, through support for models such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and Farm-to-School. These are the impacts of the Land-Grant Act.
During this same period, UC professor Elwood Mead worked closely with the State of California to organize a novel land settlement project at Delhi, specifically for returning war veterans. Today, UC farm advisors once again work with returning veterans as part of their work with the USDA’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers effort. As the nation faces a potential crisis inherent in the aging of the American farmer, UC farm advisors train new farmers, many of them women and immigrants, to become producers, thus assuring California’s agricultural future, and enhancing the security of the world’s food supply.
There are other impacts, other stories. Around World War I, a strong-minded young woman from Ventura County named Thelma Hansen traveled from her home on a farm to study at the University. She loved it. She returned to Ventura County and farmed. She worked with UC farm advisors throughout her life. She so valued the research and assistance that she and other Ventura County farmers received from the University (service provided over decades and generations) that upon her passing, she bequeathed her estate to UC. These funds, placed in trust, support vital agricultural research and extension activities that continue to keep agriculture healthy and viable in Ventura County nearly 100 years after Ms. Hansen was a UC coed. These are the impacts of the Land-Grant Act.
Most of you know that Farm Bureau was created at the same time as Cooperative Extension. While we play different roles in serving California producers and communities, our fates are knit together by the rich notion of public-private partnership and common purpose. Recently, while looking through an early report produced by our office, I found a photo of an Extension agent with members of a calf club. Two of the young men pictured in the photograph were Pidduck boys. Their descendant now serves on our county farm bureau board. Many farmers in Ventura County come from families that have farmed there for over 100 years. They are innovative, hard working and successful. The University has walked with them on their journey, over decades, over generations, in the same orchards and fields. Their success has been our success, and our work has supported their work. These are the impacts of the Land-Grant Act.
Citrus is a vital crop in California, not only in terms of production value, but also in terms of its role in the interrelationship among culture and nature. It’s an iconic crop for the state, and now we face a serious threat from the Asian Citrus Psyllid and the HLB disease it carries.
The UC Citrus Experiment Station at Riverside played an important role in the creation of what historian Douglas Sackman calls “the orange empire” we all love, from the 1870s to the present day.
California growers, University scientists, and workers transformed the natural and social landscape of California through the cultivation of citrus. The state not only exported oranges, but also exported an image of California that attracted to the state immigrants from all over the nation and the world. The wealth that UC helped producers build in California flowed out to communities in the form of philanthropic institutions such as museums and hospitals and schools, institutions that became foundational for the state’s success. Today, the Citrus Variety Collection, housed at UC Riverside, and consisting of two trees each of more than 1000 different citrus types, remains one of the premier citrus germplasm collections in the world. These are the impacts of the Land Grant Act.
Post–World War II growth
In June, 1944, President Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, also known as the GI Bill of Rights. This legislation matched the Morrill Act in its vision and national impact. We learned a valuable lesson from World War I’s Bonus Army and provided veterans with a more orderly return to the home front. Returning veterans boosted enrollment at UC, creating the conditions for the state’s phenomenal economic and social growth. Land-grant institutions such as UC proved to be the economic engine of the nation in the twentieth century, creating a robust middle class, providing upward economic and social mobility for millions of Americans, and assuring America’s pre-eminence in agriculture and science. They also provided a place where the nation’s promise of equality could be achieved, in part, through accessible public education. These are the impacts of the Land-Grant Act.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of World War II and the GI bill nationally and to the California economy. World War II became the time of the largest population shift in American history: more than 15 million men and women – 1 of every 9 Americans - left home for military service. Another 15 million Americans changed their county of residence by the war’s end. South to north, they flowed, east to west, from rural to urban, from urban to suburban. By the end of the war, 1 out of every 5 Americans had left his or her home, caught up in this great migration. The momentum continued in the post-war era, driven by opportunity. My own parents first migrated via the south to north path (and from rural to urban), and then migrated west to California (in that process from urban to suburban), part of a huge wave of humans that boosted our state’s population. California was home to 72% more people in 1950 than it had been in 1940. UC responded. 
Nearly 8 million returning veterans participated nationally in the GI program in the first decade, boosting enrollment at land-grant institutions, including UC. During this period, UC trained farmers, engineers, teachers, doctors, scientists and others who helped boost California’s economy, and its college enrollment.
A world-class education became the norm for the citizens of California, whatever their economic status. UC has been an institution for social mobility in the state. A farmer’s child and a farm worker’s child could attend the same public university. These are the impacts of the Land-Grant Act.
In California, UC’s research and agricultural education programs have enabled California to emerge as a global powerhouse in agricultural production, and provided the basis for durable economic growth that has made our state one of the world’s largest economies and most vibrant cultures.
UC has evolved from a single campus to 10 campuses spanning the state, where teaching, research and public service remain the primary missions. Per the University’s website, UC’s contributions to California’s economy remain significant; UC generates $46.3 billion in economic activity annually, and contributes $32.8 billion towards California’s gross state product. The University calculates that for every $1 of taxpayer investment UC leverages and produces nearly $14 in economic output. A 2011 study conducted by an outside organization indicated that UC supports 1 in every 46 jobs in the most populous state in the Union, the Union that Abraham Lincoln fought so hard to preserve, not only through fielding men in battle, but in providing the vision and a mechanism — land-grant institutions - to make America’s agricultural fields the most productive in the world.
UC research has fueled national and international prosperity, but it also remains a local institution in a very real sense, evident in the work of Cooperative Extension staff and UC academic outreach staff, who work in community settings to assure that communities can connect with UC resources, and that UC remains in touch with the needs of the citizens it serves. UC connections are global and local, and every place in between. Global, local, every place in between. These are the impacts of the Land-Grant Act.
In a time of economic challenge, it is tempting to view the visionary nature of the Morrill Land-Grant Act as something that is no longer needed. The current economic situation does not encourage us to look to the future with optimistic eyes. But with agricultural research investment declining, with agricultural productivity threatened by a number of factors and the world’s population expected to increase at a dramatic pace, what California can produce is desperately needed.
In 2008, the farm gate value of California agricultural products represented 1/8th of total U.S. output; California is a major contributor of nutritious fruits, nuts, vegetables and dairy products to the national and global food supply. California agriculture plays a vital role in providing an abundant source of safe, nutritious, and remarkable inexpensive food for its residents, the nation, and the world. UC plays a vital role in all of us.
There is an urgency to increase food production in ways that are more efficient and sustainable. Food security is both a national and global issue. Only an interdisciplinary approach can effectively address the severe challenges food insecurity presents to social justice and the California economy, and the dangers that declining agricultural productivity present to national and global food security. UC is providing solutions every day.
I have a deeply held belief that the production of food is vital to liberty. Others have agreed with me. Including President Lincoln.
President Lincoln didn’t share this with us today, but he once told a group of Wisconsin farmers that as long as Americans knew how to cultivate even the smallest plot of land we would be free from kings, and moneylenders, free from oppression. The themes linking the cultivation of land and democracy have continued from Jefferson to Lincoln to the present day. They are American values. They are human values that transcend our nation.
When I consider the land-grant institutions, I think about their value in calling us to collaboration, to difficult and challenging discussions, to critical and scientific thinking, to productive dialog, and yes, to larger life and to greater knowledge in service to our nation and our world. This is the impact of the Land-Grant Act.
As we celebrate this 150th anniversary, it’s not only a time to look back on what has been accomplished, but on what needs to occur…it’s a time to re-envision, re-imagine, reawaken and recreate the land-grant institution. Continued investment is required to sustain the vision of the Morrill Land-Grant Act, to help all Americans reap the promise of abundance that the land offers us.
How will we chose to support the land-grant mission in the next 150 years?
 Demographic data gathered from David Kennedy, “Freedom From Fear.”