Historians have portrayed the formative period of agricultural extension work in the United States as a search for the best method of convincing farmers to change their farming practices in order to improve agricultural efficiency, productivity, and profitability. However, one of the key leaders in extension's formative period, Cornell University's Liberty Hyde Bailey, articulated a different vision of extension's central purpose and promise. Drawing on his writings during the years in which he led the development of Cornell's extension program (1894-1902), this article argues that Bailey's vision of agricultural extension work was centered on the provision of education aimed at awakening farmers to a new point of view on life. The new point of view combined sympathy with nature, a love of country life, and a scientific attitude, expressed by a habit of careful observation and experimentation. The main purpose of awakening farmers to this point of view was not to develop a more efficient, productive, and profitable agriculture, but to advance the larger cultural ideals of a "self-sustaining" agriculture and personal happiness. The account of Bailey's vision provided in this article suggests the need to reconsider the story of the origins and early development of American agricultural extension work.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)