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A Taste of Spring from the Hampton Institute Agricultural News

April marks the final month of Amistad’s HBCU school newspaper blog series, and after a winter when much of the United States has been slammed by what feels like never-ending storms and freezes, it has been a pleasure to page through old issues of Hampton Institute’s Agricultural News and enjoy a much needed breath of spring!

Hampton University began its existence as Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in 1868. From the beginning, the agricultural component of the school was vital to Hampton’s mission, which emphasized education and skilled labor as the basis of self-support for the recently freed slaves. The Agricultural News issues in Amistad’s School Newspaper Collection date from 1932-1940, shortly after Hampton updated its curriculum to make the transition from trade school to college in 1930. The designation of “University” would come later, in 1984, as the institution continued to expand its academic offerings.

The Agricultural News contains many articles related to courses offered by the Institute, alumni news, and features on students, but my favorite articles are the ones related directly to agricultural work. Some offer tidbits of advice on gardening (When spacing strawberries, “Many successful growers are now thinning their plants to a distance of 4 to 9 inches apart in the late summer and fall. It is a good plan not to permit more than 7 plants to be supported by each mother plant. This results in more vigorous plants.”), or reminders of the horticultural calendar (“Have you done your spring pruning? If not, your roses and such ornamental plants as do not bloom in the spring should be pruned immediately.”). Others spotlight prize-winning livestock and record-breaking production (“Mother of Twins Excels Previous Milk Record,” “More Than 6000 Baby Chicks”). This Easter, you may wish you owned Mr. R.A. Munday’s White Leghorn pullet, which on October 22, 1932 laid two eggs at once! However, none can top the lovely Colleen, “the first bird in this department to lay 300 eggs in 365 days. The state record is 315 eggs."

It’s nice to see these accomplishments documented – both the skilled cultivation of the agricultural students, and the natural abilities of the livestock of yore. Too often, these types of simple snapshot stories about those who are good at what they do are the ones that are never recorded. If you live in a part of the world that continues to be battered by winter weather despite the arrival of spring, take comfort in the idea that growth, life, and achievement continue year round, throughout the years, and that ornamental pruning season is just around the bend.

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