Celebrating 75 Years of Research and Education
By Randy Weckman
West Kentucky is progressive and it will attain great heights with this new station here. [This] farm has in it the soul of these people.
—Dean T.P. Cooper speaking at 1925 dedication
It was quite an event. A parade of hundreds of school children marched
through downtown Princeton , out Hopkinsville Road to a somewhat unimproved
farm, to celebrate the dedication of a research station.
The day was hot and sultry, according to newspaper accounts and old-timers
who still remember that Labor Day in 1925. And it was full of speeches
commemorating a farm that was to become something for West Kentuckians.
And after Governor William J. Fields spoke to the cheering crowd estimated
at between 6,000 and 8,000, a team of mules was raffled.
The celebration had to do not only with the dedication of a research
station that farm families in West Kentucky hoped would improve their
lives— which it did— but it also showed the people around the small
town of Princeton that they had a voice in Frankfort. Their representative,
T.H. King of Caldwell County , had introduced a bill providing for
an agricultural research substation to be established near Princeton
and had that bill passed before his political rival from Graves County
could have his bill and a farm near Mayfield secured for the same
purpose. King stayed in Frankfort until the governor signed the bill
before returning to Caldwell County . The dedication was a triumph
all the way around for the folk of Princeton .
Those 400 acres of somewhat gullied and overgrown land, purchased
through local subscription, have proved to be successful well beyond
the wildest dreams of those who celebrated the occasion of its dedication.
Recommendations derived from the research conducted there have improved
farm life at least a hundredfold, if not more, for all Kentuckians.
And while the vision of those enthusiastic West Kentuckians of the
1920s has never faded, the scope and function of the station has grown
with the changing needs of agriculture.
During the early years, staffing at the station consisted of a superintendent,
S.J. Lowry, and an assistant, Lowry Caldwell. Research was conducted
by them at the direction of scientists headquartered in Lexington
. In the late 1930s, W.D. “Army” Armstrong, a horticulturist, was
the first scientist based at the station. His work was to improve
fruit production throughout Western Kentucky .
In the early 1950s, an agronomist and animal scientist were added
to the staff at Princeton to conduct research on agronomic crops and
livestock, but it wasn't until the mid to late 1960s that staffing
was increased substantially. By that time, additional purchases of
several small lots of land increased the number of acres at the farm
to just over 1,000.
From 1969 to the present, some 25 additional faculty positions in
both research and Extension have been added to the UK College of Agriculture
staff at Princeton . A 35,000 square foot research and education center
was dedicated in 1980. With additional purchases of land in the 1970s,
the total acreage is just over 1,200 acres.
There likely won't be a parade of school children out Hopkinsville
Road or a raffle of a team of mules, for that matter, this July 20
when the 75th anniversary of the dedication will be observed with
a field day. Even so, the townsfolk will drive under a 40-foot banner
across the main street on their way out to the farm. The celebration
will be quite an event, recognizing the wisdom of the leaders of Caldwell
County three-quarters of a century ago and the progress their decision
has afforded to all Kentuckians.
The field day and celebration will feature the latest information
on advances in agriculture. Tours conducted by faculty members will
include the findings from research about grain crops, including corn,
wheat, and soybeans, as well as weed management. Other tours will
feature information about forages, tobacco, and beef and swine production,
precision agriculture, biotechnology, and horticultural crops. In
addition, there will be family and consumer sciences and youth activities
and tours. A special exhibit showcasing the 75 years of history of
the farm will be available for viewing.
As a land-grant institution the University of Kentucky College
of Agriculture conducts research and education throughout the
Commonwealth. The Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station, the research
arm of the College, maintains permanent facilities at several locations
outside of Lexington . The largest such facility is located at Princeton
. “ Princeton ,” as it is usually referred to, was originally titled
the West Kentucky Substation, a branch of the Experiment Station.
After the new building was constructed in the ‘80s, the term “Center” began
to replace the Substation designation. “ Princeton ” is now known
as the University of Kentucky Research and Education Center at Princeton