Porter Farm is the site of a pioneer demonstration farm in northern Kaufman County three miles north of Terrell. In February 1903 Seaman A. Knapp, seventy years of age and a special agent of the United States Department of Agriculture, offered local farmers the opportunity to explore the benefits of scientific farming methods such as crop rotation, use of legumes, properly spaced plantings, and commercial fertilizers, to increase crop production. Seventy acres of Walter C. Porter's farm was chosen as a demonstration plot. A thousand dollars was collected from area farmers and businessmen to indemnify Porter against possible losses from trying Knapp's methods. The money was not needed, however, as Porter's cotton production almost doubled.
The success of the venture enabled Knapp to persuade United States secretary of agriculture James Wilson to visit the farm and see the results. Wilson awarded Knapp $40,000 to open an office for the Farmers Cooperative Demonstration Work in Houston. Knapp employed thirty-three agents, who were assigned to counties beginning in 1906; William C. Stallings was appointed to Smith County. In 1911 the Texas legislature authorized county commissioners' courts to appropriate money for agents' salaries. Edna W. Trigg was appointed the first home demonstration agent. Texas A&M College and the Department of Agriculture reached a cooperative agreement soon afterward.
By 1978 there were extension agents in all 254 Texas counties, supported by subject-matter specialists and administrators at Texas A&M University. The Texas Agricultural Extension Service is supported by the joint effort of county, state, and federal governments. Porter Farm was designated a national historical landmark in 1965 because of the role it played in accelerating the development of the federal Agricultural Extension Service. In 1989 the farm was still operated by descendants of W. C. Porter.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Rodney Cline, The Life and Work of Seaman A. Knapp (Ph.D. dissertation, George Peabody College for Teachers, 1936). Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 1, 1978. Herbert R. Southworth, "The Later Years of Seaman A. Knapp," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 10 (1934). Terrell Tribune, October 5, 1978 ("Diamond Anniversary of Farm Demonstration Week," Special Insert).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Gerald F. Kozlowski,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 22, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 1, 1995