The Florida Agriculture and Rural Life Digital Collection includes the historic publications of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station and the Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute for Food and Agricultural Services (IFAS), University of Florida. As IFAS documents are revised in the online EDIS system, replaced versions are often added to this collection. Florida Agriculture and Rural Life also includes annual reports and bulletins of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and publications of the University of Florida Engineering and Industrial Experiment Station.
Colonial Spanish agriculture (1565-1764), British agriculture (1764-1784) and the return of Spanish agriculture after the American Revolution (1784-1821) preceded the American experience, begun in 1821 when Florida was acquired as a territory of the United States. Statehood was achieved in 1845 at a time when a handful of antebellum plantations slowly spread throughout northern and north central Florida, and agriculture, citrus, cattle and naval stores were major economic resources for the new State. Nevertheless, the Seminole Wars, Civil War, Reconstruction took a toll on the State’s development. Agricultural literature for this period is sparse and did not become significant until formal agricultural experimentation began at the State’s land grant colleges.
The first land grant college was established in 1884 at Florida Agricultural College, Lake City. A year later, in 1885, the Florida Constitution created the Cabinet level position, Commissioner of Agriculture along with an agency that evolved into the present Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). In 1891, a land grant college for African-Americans was established at the State Normal College for Colored Students (now Florida A&M University). Florida Agricultural College, along with three others, became the University of Florida in 1905 at Gainesville. The Agricultural Experiment Station, established in 1888 at the Florida Agricultural College, was transferred along with the College to the University of Florida. An Agricultural Extension Service was established in 1915. University agricultural programs involving the College of Agriculture, Experiment Station and Extension Service evolved into the present Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (IFAS).
At the turn of the century 90% of the state's population was still rural and Florida's frontier-like character persisted well into the twentieth century. This changed significantly after World War II, which represents a watershed in agriculture and the application of engineering to solve everyday problems. In 1941 the UF Engineering and Industrial Experiment Station was established to assist in the development of Florida's agriculture, home life, and industry. It is this period of early agricultural development up to its modern changes (1820-1945) and the early development of engineered solutions to Florida's needs (1933-1970s) that is documented in these collections.