A curious community flocks to the Marshfield experimental farm
By Kris Leonhardt
In the early days of August 1918, the Marshfield experimental farm was abuzz with activity. Fairly new at the time, the upcoming event was important in educating the farm-laden area in the activities being held at the site.
The farm had been developed in 1912 by state researchers from the University of Wisconsin College of Agriculture. Seeing the success of the experimental farm at Copenhagen, Denmark, one of the richest countries in the world at that time, U.S. agricultural researchers set out to create a system of research farms that aided farmers in using techniques and products that would make them successful.
While searching the state for various ground and weather conditions, Marshfield was selected as one of five locations to be developed. The college obtained 40 acres of local farm land owned by John Hoffman as well as another 40 acres of the Wood County Hospital farm. The 80 acres were gifted by the city of Marshfield and Wood County to encourage the UW to locate there.
As organizers prepared for the Field Day exercises that summer in 1918, they had assistance from the Chamber of Commerce as well as the entire Marshfield community. On the Tuesday it began, nothing could prepare them for the 200 individuals arriving in automobiles from the greater Medford area to view the operations at the Marshfield research site.
A reception at Columbia Park was filled with a mixture of cigars and ice cream before the large group departed to the grounds.
The following day an assembly nearly three times that size arrived for the event. With a mixture of curiosity and community, the locals embraced the activities of the day.
Attendees were treated to lunch and a tour of the farm. While ladies were separated to take part in lessons on canning and preserving farm food, the men were educated on the studies being conducted on the farm, including the fattening of hogs and the importance of testing grains before they are put on the market. Grains undergoing examination at the time included barley, wheat, oats, and rye.
Over the years the farm has expanded greatly due to acquisitions, lease agreements, and new programs. The Marshfield Agricultural Research Station is now comprised of 1,250 acres of research area and is one of 12 existing agricultural research farms in the system. The next closest one may be found near Hancock, Wis.