Once Upon A Time: N.C. Agriculture Was Created

by | Mar 14, 2022

It’s National Write Down Your Story Day! Keep reading to learn more about ours and be sure to tell us your agriculture story on our Facebook or Instagram pages!

Although the idea of a state department of agriculture had been tossed around for many years prior, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services was established in 1877 by the N.C. General Assembly. The very first N.C. Board of Agriculture was also established at this time to oversee the activities and projects undertaken by the department.

The goal of the department has always remained the same, to promote, protect and encourage all those within the North Carolina agriculture industry. In fact, that was the very purpose behind why this department was created. In 1860, prior to the birth of the department, a board of agriculture was set up to provide for the needs of the agriculture industry, but when that board failed to meet the needs of the farmers and other industry workers that it served, the department of agriculture was born.

On April 2, 1877, Col. Leonidas LaFayette Polk was named the very first N.C. Agriculture Commissioner. Growing up on a family farm gave Commissioner Polk well-rounded experience and knowledge in the world of agriculture. From cotton, corn and oats to cattle and hogs, the family farm prepared Polk for this position in a variety of ways. Although he always had a strong love for agriculture, it wasn’t until after he married that he developed a passion for and interest in politics. Prior to his time as Agriculture Commissioner, Polk served as a leader of N.C. Grange, a partnership which later helped afford him the title of Commissioner. He is well-known for creating the Progressive Farmer publication and establishing N.C. State University in Raleigh as a college of agriculture.

Brickyard at NC State 1969
Brickyard at NC State 2020

Since then, the NCDA&CS has been home to 15 agriculture commissioners, including current N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, and has improved in many ways to better benefit our state’s number one industry. For example, the department now consists of 18 divisions that service a wide array of needs throughout the industry, including ag finance, food distribution, soil and water, farmland preservation and more!

One of the most popular departmental divisions is the N.C. State Fair! The fair has been held annually since 1853 and, much like the department, has changed in a plethora of ways since it’s inception. The very first N.C. State Fair was only four days long, as opposed to the current 10 days, and the highest attended day consisted of 4,000 fairgoers. To date, the busiest day at the fair had over 150,000 people in attendance!

In 1928, the N.C. State Fair was placed under the jurisdiction of the N.C. Department of Agriculture when it was relocated from a site across from N.C. State University to it’s current location off of Trinity Road in Raleigh. Although it was leased a few times for commercial usage between 1928 and 1937, W. Kerr Scott officially returned control to the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services when he was elected Agriculture Commissioner in 1937. Since then, the fair has continued to grow and evolved to become the event that we all anticipate and look forward to each year.

Although many changes have taken place since the departments inception in 1877, one thing has remained the same: our purpose. We are here to service the needs of our states number one industry. Today, our agriculture industry contributes over $95 billion to the state economy each year and we are proud to have a hand in helping that number come to fruition and flourish. No matter what changes the future may bring, we will always stand firm on the foundation of our mission to service, protect and promote the wonderful people and local products found within our industry!