Monday, July 29, 2013

Farming and Feeding the Campus

Looking at the current site of the Quad, you might never guess that it was once the home to a campus farm and dairy barn that supplied State Normal (now UNCG) with milk, pork, and produce. But in 1897 Charles Duncan McIver established the first campus farm on a newly-acquired plot of land on the western side of the campus. In addition to providing the school with food products, the farm also served as a teaching laboratory for horticulture classes.
Campus dairy farm (near site of current Aycock Street), 1922

Initially the farm was managed by Thomas L. Brown, an English horticulturalist who was then working at the Biltmore Estate. McIver, however, did not allow the farm to proceed without his direct supervision and impact. In fact, he bought much of the livestock himself. The campus also constructed a substantial dairy barn near the current site of Shaw Dormitory.

It took seven years (as well as Brown’s replacement and a reduction in the livestock herd) for the farm to begin turning a profit for the school. After 1904, however, the farm operations grew substantially. By 1910, the cattle produced more milk than the students could consume, allowing the college to sell and profit from the surplus.

Soon, however, campus expansion (specifically the newly-constructed Woman’s Dormitory) led administrators to search for new sites for the barn. In 1913, the livestock and their barn were moved further west, closer to Dairy Street (now Aycock Street).

Only four years later, however, the campus farm had proven too small for the growing student body, and the land it occupied was needed for other purposes. The Quad was carved out of the farm’s eastern side, and there were plans for a physical education building and golf course to occupy the remaining area. While the college had use of an additional farm southeast of Greensboro, it needed more space to produce more foodstuffs.

So, in 1923, president Foust purchased a 250-acre plot of land in Friendship Township about eight miles west of campus (near the current Piedmont Triad International Airport). Primarily, this site was used as a dairy farm, with Holstein cows providing milk for students and extra milk being sold to local dairies. The old campus barn was demolished, physical education facilities were constructed where the farm stood, and farming operations fully moved away from the immediate campus area.

During World War II, the campus experienced a shortage of workers for the farm. As a result, forty to fifty German prisoners of war were bused in daily from Winston-Salem to provide much-needed labor. Once American soldiers returned from overseas, however, the labor shortage continued. Foust and later president Walter Clinton Jackson were advised – but refused – to sell the farm as it began to lose money. Both cited distrust in the quality and quantity of milk available from local dairies as the primary reason for retaining the farm.

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