The University Farm was the educational institution founded in Davis in the early 1900s that has since become what we now know as UC Davis. Designed to be a world class agricultural facility that stood as an equal with "eastern institutions of longer standing", agricultural research began before the first student stepped foot on the school grounds.
The first classes were short instructional courses held during the fall of 1908 and advertised with the open invitation: "everybody may come". All men and women over 17 years old were eligible, and the application consisted of a single page of questions about the student's farm or creamery experience. With only two buildings completed (the dairy and North Hall), only five classes could be offered. The highest tuition was only $10 for eight weeks of instruction. Some less expensive classes ran as short as eight days, and the Southern Pacific Railroad helped those first students reach the newly built campus with discounted fares.
The initial 109 students included over a dozen women — who wouldn't be represented again on campus until 1914 when the women's South Hall dorm was completed. They studied farm skills through the October and November of 1908, paving the way for the first year of a three-year system with regular courses that began January 1909.
The criteria for the men comprising the first incoming regular student body that following Spring was only a successful completion of the eighth grade; tuition was free. The focus of a hands on, practical education was a founding principle of the school. That vision had been stated explicitly by UC President Benjamin Wheeler in his 1907 dedication speech: he spoke of educating students in "real things" and to "reverse the direction of the prevailing book- and blackboard-education and move from the outside in, instead of from the inside out".
The land of Davis offered a natural bounty to those who settled here, and the railroad and Lincoln highway (and later I 80) would allow people to easily travel here. But one of the central and defining institutions that has drawn so many people to this tiny town — some passing through, others settling down and raising families — was established by those two buildings, a small group of researchers and instructors and 109 students in the fall of 1908.
Farmer's Short Courses Offered (1908)
- Dairy Manufacture
- Irrigation, Soils, Forage Crops and Cereals
- Poultry Husbandry
- Animal Industry and Veterinary Science
- Horticulture and Viticulture
Initial Faculty and Administration
- Benjamin Wheeler — UC President
- Emil Hagemann — Dairy