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The Morrill Act and What It Means for You

Don’t go scrambling for the newspapers – the Morrill Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862, establishing the land-grant colleges. Morrill Act

Under this legislation, the states received thousands of acres of land (or ‘scrip’ for federal lands in other states – New York’s scrip was, believe it or not, forest land in Wisconsin), to be used/managed/sold for the purpose of the establishment of land grant colleges. “The purpose of the land-grant colleges was:
…without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.”

For a list of land-grant colleges and universities, go: Land Grant Universities

The system of Cooperative Extension (basically to have agents bring the wonders of all of this research being done at the land grant universities to farmers and housewives everywhere) was added in 1914 by the Smith-Lever Act. And county cooperative extensions have been growing and adapting to their roles every since, harnessing research to help community development, business development, youth development (the umbrella under which 4-H resides) and so on. Cooperative Extension and land-grant universities are not just for agriculture anymore.

The reason I’m bringing this up is that land grant universities and county cooperative extensions might just be the doorway that entrepreneurs need in order to get their ideas and products out there.

Cornell University, for example, has a Food Venture Center, in Geneva, New York (the main campus of Cornell is in Ithaca, but it has other locations as well). Food Venture Center
They literally can take a New York State entrepreneur who has an idea for a food product all the way from a pot full of whatever this is, all the way through the testing, commercial recipe creation, partnering with processors, getting products inspected and licensed, to marketing and partnering with retailers. This is huge help for someone at the beginning of their business. Now, in Cornell’s case, their Food Venture Center has worked with everyone from Tropicana and V-8 all the way to the New York State Apple Growers Association, all the way down to a lady who showed up with a pot full of her family’s favorite barbecue sauce.

I’m not saying that every land-grant college has a food venture center, but if you have an idea for a product of any sort, it just might be a good idea to contact your county cooperative extension to ask them who might be able to help you at the land-grant institution that they are associated with, and take it from there.

There just might be a business in it.
(photo of Cornell courtesy of Matt Hintsa)

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