History of the NH Agricultural Experiment Station

NHEA at Hanover

Land-grant colleges were established by the federal Morrill Land-Grant College Act of 1862. The mostly private higher institutions of the time focused primarily on law, philosophy, medicine and theology, and most citizens did not have access to the benefits of higher education. In contrast, these new public colleges were charged to provide a broad intellectual education to the masses, and to specifically include foci in agriculture and the mechanic arts (now engineering).

New Hampshire accepted the provisions of the Land-Grant College Act that same year. The state thereby received a grant of land from the federal government, to be sold or auctioned, the proceeds of which were to be used to create the public institution having the specified mission -- hence the name land-grant college (now university). New Hampshire received 150,000 acres -- each state received 30,000 acres per federal representative and senator -- then sold this for $80,000 and agreed to pay 6 percent of it per year to fund the new college. The New Hampshire College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts was created in 1866 as a part of the existing institution at Dartmouth. Unhappy with the early performance of the college at Dartmouth, Durham farmer and businessman Benjamin Thompson willed his farm to the state under the condition that they establish a school to promote the cause of agriculture. By 1893, the college and associated NH Agricultural Experiment Station moved from Hanover to Durham, anchoring what is now UNH.


We comprise a formative and fundamental aspect of UNH and the national network of land-grant institutions, and we provide outstanding services to local, state, national, and international stakeholders.

Twenty five years after the Morrill Act, the federal Hatch Act of 1887 was passed in response for the need for a vibrant agricultural research enterprise at each land-grant college, creating the national system of State Agricultural Experiment Stations. The New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station (NHAES) was established that year (still in Hanover) as the university's first research organization. The formula or capacity funding system allocates the appropriate USDA budget component to individual state experiment stations and thereby provides a capacity to support the considerable agricultural infrastructure required to undertake meaningful research that has relevance to both state and national needs. As of 1935 the respective states must match the federal dollars toward AES research. The McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research Act was passed in 1962 to encourage forestry-related research. This program also requires state funding match and is administered through the NH Agricultural Experiment Station.

Fifty two years following establishment of the land-grant system, the federal Smith-Lever Act of 1914 responded to a need to more effectively extend the findings of the research conducted by the state agricultural experiment stations to relevant stakeholders. It established the Cooperative Extension Service and provided federal funds for extension activities at the land-grant institutions. As with the Hatch and McIntire-Stennis acts, states are required to provide a one-for-one match from nonfederal resources.

This completed the three-legged stool that is often used as analogy for the land-grant institutions. Each of the three missions -- learning, discovery, and engagement -- are critical components of the modern land-grant university, and each comprises distinct entities with specific statutory mission but which are intended to collaborate closely. When these enterprises work seamlessly together, the differentiation is often unapparent to consumers including students, faculty, and stakeholders within the state and region.

One of the largest research organizations at UNH, the NH Agricultural Experiment Station has transitioned over the years in response to state and national goals and statutes, along with societal, budgetary, and other forces. We comprise a formative and fundamental aspect of UNH and the national network of land-grant institutions, and we provide outstanding services to local, state, national, and international stakeholders. Within UNH we annually provide significant funding in direct support of research, teaching, and engagement in sustainable agriculture, forestry, environmental sciences, and rural communities. Funding and management for the UNH farms, dairies, and research greenhouses comes from the experiment station, along with an appropriate contribution by the UNH College of Life Sciences and Agriculture.