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Friday, May 6, 2016

Remembering agricultural heritage

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The 4-H Pledge goes, "I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world."

A number of individuals have done just that throughout history and have contributed much to the agricultural world.

Those individuals have put in time, effort and energy to help make large advances in agriculture and should be thanked, not within a give month, but year round.

February has been declared National African American History Month and probably the most well-known African American who had an impact on agriculture is George Washington Carver.

George Washington Carver set out to use his training as an agricultural chemist to help southern farmers become economically sound.

Carver is widely known for his research with peanuts and how he invented new products and demonstrated how to increase yields. Throughout his lifetime, he invented hundreds of uses for peanuts, soybeans, pecans, and sweet potatoes, all of which many of us still enjoy to this day.

March holds the honor of having two month-long celebrations devoted toward history.

These are National Women's History Month and National Irish-American Heritage Month.

For those involved with the dairy industry, you might be surprised to know that Anna Baldwin was one of the first to invent a suction milking machine. Her attempt to do so was in 1878. Though it was not commercially successful, it helped with the groundwork for the milking machines we see in parlors today.

Agriculture would not be the same if it wasn't for the invention of the tractor. One of the first tractors invented was by Harry Ferguson, an Irishman. His interest in tractors grew during World War I, when he was working in a mechanics workshop.

Later on, he developed the Ferguson tractor that was built by Ford and marketed by Ferguson as agreed upon by the legendary "Handshake Agreement."

May is National Asian/Pacific Heritage Month.

Many of the individuals who were involved with the harvesting of grapes, canning of goods and fishing along the west coast are of Asian-Pacific heritage. Those individuals like many who immigrated to the United States, felt hardships and persevered.

They are credited with the creation of unions to help those working in the fields attain better working conditions.

Not only were those of Asian-Pacific heritage involved with the creation of unions for farm workers in the United States, but so was Cesar Chavez. Cesar was of Hispanic descent and should be honored during September as part of National Hispanic Heritage Month. Cesar was a second-generation American whose family became migrant farm workers after they lost their farm during the Great Depression. This experience is what helped him develop the dream of creating an organization to protect and serve farm workers. He founded the National Farm Workers Association, which is now known as the United Farm Workers of America.

Understanding how individuals of different cultural descent have impacted agriculture could not be complete without including those involved with National American Indian Heritage month in November.

The most symbolic impact that American Indians have had on agriculture that I can think of is through the "Three Sisters."

For centuries, Native American tribes have planted corn, beans and squash (the three sisters) together. This form of companion planting is what has helped countless residents in the United States survive.

It is the Native Americans that knew when these three crops are grown together, they are often high yielding, are of high quality, and have little impact on the environment.

Year round, many individuals who have greatly contributed to agriculture are overlooked. Therefore, I suggest that as you shop, work, eat, or watch TV, think about those throughout history that have given of themselves and practiced the 4-H Pledge while making a difference in the agricultural world.

Then, if you have a chance, thank your local farmer, neighbor, or friend for making a difference in your life in some way or another. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about agriculture, horticulture, or natural resources, please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay County or 812-829-5020 in Owen County, or reach me directly via e-mail at smith535@purdue.edu.

Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:

* Feb. 16 -- No-Till Breakfast and PARP, 8 a.m.-noon, McCormick's Creek State Park. Call 812-829-2605 to register. Cost $10 for PARP credit,

* Feb. 20 -- Clay County 4-H Expo, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Clay County Fairgrounds,

* Feb. 23 -- Invasive Plant Workshop, 7 p.m., Barn in Fowler Park,

* Feb. 27 -- Spring Into Spring Seminar, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Putnam County Fairgrounds. Cost $35. Call 442-5312 to register, and

* March 13 -- The Gardener's Gathering Spring Seminar, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Terre Haute. Cost $30. Call 462-3371 to register by March 1.