Agricultural education at the Virginia Military Institute during the 1850s: forerunner of practical higher education in the South
Throughout the first half of the 19th Century, Virginia planters, farmers, educators, and agricultural societies wrote about the need, and advocated for, formal university agricultural education. While this need was identified as early as the 1800s, it was not until the early 1850s that the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) started offering courses in agricultural chemistry. By the mid-to-late 1850s, the success of these courses led to an expanded agricultural chemistry program based on European modes; finally, an agricultural major and discipline had been created – the only program of its kind in the state of Virginia, and one of the first in the Southern states. However, the coming war at the end of 1859 would shift the focus of educators and state leaders, prohibiting the full implementation of the agricultural education plan.