LAND GRANTS AND LINCOLN, by Larry Williams UF/IFAS Extension Agent

One hundred fifty years ago on July 2, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Morrill Act, which created a nationwide network of public universities known as land-grant universities. The University of Florida was the university designated to be the State of Florida’s 1862 land-grant university.

One year, four months and 17 days before Abraham Lincoln addressed a war-weary crowd at the dedication of a cemetery in Gettysburg, the president signed legislation that made an immediate and everlasting impact on the way people experience their lives. The Morrill Act established the land-grant university system and essentially initiated what could be defined as “The Education Revolution” that thrives to this day.

Land-grant universities democratized higher education in America and initially provided for the teaching of agriculture science, engineering and military tactics to improve the quality of American education in these subjects. In its role as a land-grant institution, the University of Florida has provided leadership in helping the United States produce the safest and most plentiful food supply on earth.

University of Florida faculty members have made significant strides in establishing and advancing the agricultural and natural resources sector as Florida’s second-largest industry. The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is a federal, state and county partnership dedicated to developing knowledge of agriculture, human and natural resources and the life sciences and sharing it with Florida’s citizenry.

This shared scientific knowledge and expertise enriches lives and enhances the state’s economic growth. On July 2, Florida residents, along with millions of other Americans, will have benefited from 150 years of the land-grant vision.

For a century and a half, in thousands of ways, the University of Florida has helped make Florida a great place to live, work and play through its core mission of teaching research and outreach. And it has played a vital role in helping the United States produce the safest and most plentiful food supply on earth.

Florida has two land-grant institutions, UF and Florida A&M University; UF/IFAS is the states’ largest land-grant agriculture and natural resources program.

In reality my job as a UF/IFAS Extension agent in Okaloosa County and this weekly column exist because of the Morrill Act.

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