Thursday, January 9, 2014

What is a Land-Grant University?

You may have heard that the University of the District of Columbia is a land-grant university, but do you know what exactly that is?

Land-grant universities provide education both on campuses and in communities. Signed by President Lincoln In 1862, the Morrill Act established the creation of the land-grant university. In 1887, the Hatch Act expanded the mission of land-grant colleges by providing states with federal funds to establish what are known as Agricultural Experiment Stations (AES), which research solutions to individual state agricultural concerns, such as the correlation between soil and crop management.

The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 created the Cooperation Extension Service (CES), where representatives known as extension agents were tasked with teaching the community with lessons learned from agricultural research conducted at the experiment stations. CES is designed to “bring land-grant expertise to the most local of levels.” The program is run by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) and is supported specifically by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture  (NIFA).

Being a public and a land-grant institution makes the University of the District of Columbia different from the other colleges and universities local to the Washington, D.C. metro area. In the following CAUSES TV video, UDC Interim President James Lyons and CAUSES Dean Sabine O'Hara discuss how as a land-grant, the University of D.C. serves particular needs for the District's residents.

UDC's Agricultural Experiment Station, Muirkirk Farm, conducts research and tests techniques in sustainable and organic agriculture, applying them to an urban agricultural setting. The station's Sustainable Agriculture Program teaches gardeners how to use sustainable techniques to increase productivity in their gardens despite the smaller land areas available to them. 

There is a land-grant institution in every state and territory of the United States, for a total of 105. The University of the District of Columbia received its land-grant status in 1967. As the nation’s only urban land-grant, UDC must marry the aspects of a traditional land-grant with an urban environment. UDC’s AES must address those issues unique to urban areas. Our experiment station was created to expand and promote research activities in the fields of nutrition and health, urban food production, food safety, resource conservation, urban architectural design, urban gardening, sustainable agriculture, environmental issues, climate change and renewable energy.

This aligns closely with the mission of CAUSES, which embodies UDC’s land-grant tradition:

The College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences of the University of the District of Columbia offers research-based academic and community outreach programs that improve the quality of life and economic opportunity of people and communities on the District of Columbia, the nation and the world.

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