Agricultural Empowerment in Academics, Research, and Extension

About the Project

This project is an outgrowth of a Digital History course at NC State University. The goal of the project is to educate students on North Carolina agriculture and extension programs. The project contextualizes North Carolina agriculture and reforms and tie it into broader themes in high school history curriculums. The project also provides tools and instruction for students to conduct their own historical research.

We set out to investigate perceptions of empowerment held by leaders in North Carolina agriculture and Extension and their approaches to agricultural empowerment through academics, research, and extension. We also examined the extent to which “beneficiaries” accepted or challenged their efforts. Finally, we considered how agriculture empowerment could be measured and evaluated through education and extension efforts in North Carolina.

In 1889, Elias Carr explained the situation of many throughout North Carolina and much of the South when he said “If eastern North Carolina ever has any prosperity it must be dug out of the soil by those engaging in the soil.”[1] At the turn of the century, the majority of the United States population was rural, and this was especially true in the agriculture-based South, including North Carolina. Most of these rural inhabitants lived on farms and practiced subsistence agriculture, meaning they produced the necessary food and other resources for themselves and their families. Agriculture remained fairly stagnant until World War I, when food shortages affecting troops led to increased crop production, but this market disappeared following the war resulting in a “farm crisis.” In order to ameliorate the financial consequences, political leaders realized the need to “stabilize farms, farmers and commodity production.” There was a widespread desire to make agriculture more efficient, which required farmers to be educated on the most productive agricultural techniques and farm families to learn the best methods for processing agricultural products for home use. In North Carolina, N.C. State University and the North Carolina Cooperative Extension collaborated to make agriculture more efficient, resulting in a three-pronged approach for agricultural prosperity: academics, research and extension. This exhibit focuses on the work of these “agents of industrialism” and the successes and failures of agricultural education, research, and extension to empower farmers, farm families, and rural inhabitants through the spread of agricultural knowledge.[5]


Our exhibits are designed to be viewed in any order. They incorporate text, images and interpretation. Feel free to browse our collection of primary sources, as well. The collection contains reports, manuals, journals, photographs, and videos.

Diversifying the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences

This exhibit examines how the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences dismantled its educational hierarchy from the 1960s through the 1980s and brought in high school students, women, and African Americans.

The Industry of Agriculture

This exhibit focuses on the role of agricultural research at North Carolina State University in the transformation of agriculture from subsistance to industrialized.

The North Carolina Extension Service and the Farmer’s Family

This exhibit examines the North Carolina Extension Service’s programs for women and children and the extent to which Extension efforts were beneficial and disadvantageous to those individuals.


Agricultural Empowerment in Academics, Research, and Extension

Green 'N' Growing


Teaching and Learning

Our teaching and learning section creates opportunities to learn the historians craft and dig into our primary source collection. Our lessons also help you to better understand how you use the internet in your own research.

Understanding Primary Sources - Lesson Plan

Searching Online

Copyright and Citation Guidelines


[1] Elias Carr Papers, East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

[5] Deborah Fitzgerald, Every Farm a Factory: The Industrial Ideal in American Agriculture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 6;18;20;27.