Potter: ‘The volumes are an information treasure trove to anyone interested in Yates County’s farm community and agricultural practices.’

The Yates County History Center has received a major gift of historic records that will help to document developments and changes in agriculture during the 20th century in Yates County. The gift is 22 bound volumes of “Agricultural Home and Farm News,” given to the YCHS jointly by the Yates County Farm Bureau and the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County. 

Yates County Cooperative Extension President Wendy Disbrow and Executive Director Arlene Wilson presented the collection, along with Yates Farm Bureau President Larry Lewis and Field Advisor Skip Jensen. All agreed how glad they were the volumes would be preserved and available to the public for future generations to learn from.

Wilson joked, “This is our reward for finally cleaning out our closets! Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County is pleased to be able to do our part to contribute to preserving agriculture and 4-H history in Yates County.”

YCHS Executive Director John Potter says the monthly publication spans the years from 1918 through the 1970s, and was a major communication method to extend the research-based knowledge created at the State’s Land Grant Colleges in Ithaca and the Experiment Station in Geneva.  

The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established a system of Cooperative Extension Services to inform people about current developments in agriculture, home economics, public policy/government, leadership, 4-H, economic development, coastal issues (National Sea Grant College Program), and other related subjects. “It helped farmers learn new agricultural techniques by the introduction of home instruction,” says Potter. “With local grass-roots farmer membership, the Farm Bureau has been an important partner in the effort through the years.”

The collection will be placed in the research archives, and is already being digitized for preservation and research purposes. With the hard work of volunteers, a searchable database of PDFs may be available by the end of summer.

The collection is by no means complete, however. Gaps exist over spans of years, but the information that is there is still of great value. The hope is the missing years may be filled in from other donors (See below).

Potter is excited for the opportunities the archive will offer, saying, “The volumes are an information treasure trove to anyone interested in Yates County’s farm community and agricultural practices.”

Potter says that an initial examination of the publications reveals many details about Yates County agricultural development, farm production, and evolutionary changes that took place on local farms during the 20th century. Crop and milk production practices, agricultural marketing, and the farming community leaders are mentioned. The 4-H organization, the rural youth component of Cooperative Extension and Home Economics — the scientific study of home related topics common to Yates County farm families — are detailed, and numerous pictures of local farms and people are also featured in the articles.

“Reader-researchers will learn about the impact and acceptance of farm and rural electrification, farm mechanization, the evolutionary use of chemicals in crop production and pest control, advances in animal health, nutrition and housing, and applications of engineering to agriculture.”

How you can help

If you have bound volumes or individual issues of Yates Agricultural Home and Farm News from the following years, please contact The Yates History Center. 

• 1933 to 1937

• 1942 to 1945 (publication may have stopped because of W.W. II)

• 1956 to 1964

Yates County History Center

107 Chapel St.

Penn Yan, N.Y. 14527

Phone: 315-536-7318 

Fax: 315-536-0976

email: director@yatespast.org

website: www.yatespast.org