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Canning Meat, Fish and Poultry Bulletin (Montana Extension Service in Agriculture and Home Economics), April 1, 1938
Canning Meat, Fish and Poultry Bulletin (Montana Extension Service in Agriculture and Home Economics), April 1, 1938

Historical Perspective

The United States has a rich history of agricultural information sharing. Many societies were formed for just this purpose in the early days of America; leaders in Philadelphia formed an agricultural society as early as 1785. This trend grew and evolved after the Morrill-Land Grant College Act established a partnership between U.S. universities and agriculture in 1862. This led to the incorporation of scientific research in the development of crops and plant varieties. Agricultural information was then published and shared through field offices and extension services.

Early agricultural publications contain information about plant varieties, pest control, and farm management. These documents also feature an overall picture of rural life, including the values of farming families and the rapid changes that industry brought to farming and ranching practices.

Agricultural information can be regionally specific, as the local soil, climate, terrain, and availability of labor and equipment impact crop success and yields. Some methods and techniques, however, can be adapted for other locations. The fundamental and simple techniques contained in these early publications can be helpful to small farm operations, such as home food production. 

Archiving Agricultural Information

Universities and local agencies have been major producers of agricultural information. Land-grant institution libraries, Cooperative Extension offices, and the National Agricultural Library (NAL) have been primarily responsible for archiving this information. Preserving agricultural history not only provides a window into the past, but documents the knowledge and practices of the time. This process preserves the work of national and local agricultural departments along with unique materials not available elsewhere. While many universities and the NAL have taken on the task of digitizing early publications and providing increasing access to digital content, the majority remain available only in print. Digitization will likely remain a top priority in the coming years.

Current Trends in Agricultural Information

Local foods and “farm to table” efforts, which aim to bring awareness of and a reduction in the distance food travels from harvest to consumption, have recently seen a growing interest. These efforts point to a renewed focus on small operations and simpler techniques for growing, harvesting, and preserving food, often featured in Cooperative Extension service documents. Additional research in the area of sustainable harvests is anticipated.

Linking Resources and Researchers

Agricultural information is expected to become more integrated in the knowledge network. Systems that connect researchers to research and to each other are expected to grow:

  • Embedded footnotes and citations within articles will also increase the awareness of researchers to those with similar interests.
  • Links to the data or datasets that inform the results are expected to become more commonplace and will allow researchers to repurpose and reuse existing research.
  • Open access to publications and data derived from government-funded scientific research is expected to expand beyond medical research and include topics such as agriculture.
  • Applications and tools to mine, manipulate, and use the supporting data will also be offered more frequently and used to discover agricultural information.

The challenge to locate, preserve, digitize, and link information, data, and users will require collaborative work at an international level.


René Tanner, Life Sciences Librarian, Arizona State University

CRL Collections

    CRL’s agriculture collection has grown through deposit of the membership, specific projects, and direct acquisition. The collection has strengths in plant and animal culture as well as statistical information in Area Studies and government documents holdings. More than 120 countries are represented in the collection; about half of the resources come from the U.S., West Germany, Russia, India, Sweden, and Japan.

    The United States agricultural census is a collection highlight. CRL owns census records from more than 20 states and scattered aggregate records from the 1840 through 1900 censuses. Original manuscript census forms used to compile the 7th to 10th federal censuses of agriculture and industry for many states are also included. Additional censuses can be obtained through CRLs demand purchase program.

    CRLs extensive newspaper collection contains a wealth of information about agriculture and related topics such as markets, weather, science, advertisements, etc. CRL has over 18,000 newspapers from all over the world.  To find newspaper titles in the collection by country or U.S. State, the catalog has special search aids in its newspaper catalog interface.

    The references below feature the strengths of CRLs holdings. Links point to more detailed descriptions in the catalog, and where available link to digital version of the content or digitized finding aids for microfilm.



    Agrártudományi Egyetem Állattenyésztési Karának közleményei = Trudy Zhivotnovodcheskogo fakulʹteta Universiteta agrarnykh nauk = Reports of the Faculty for Animal Husbandry, Hungarian University of Agricultural Science
    Gödöllői Agrártudományi Egyetem. Állattenyésztési Kar
    Mezőgazdasági Kiadó, [1955-1957]
    Catalog Record
    Auswirkungen Neuartiger Waldschäden und der Bodenversauerung auf das Abflussverhalten von Waldgebieten
    Hans Joachim Caspary
    Universität Karlsruhe, 1990
    20th Century
    Catalog Record
    De corporum heterogeneorum in plantis animalibusque genesi
    Josephus Hermannus Schmidt
    Typis Academiae Regiae Scientiarum, 1825
    Catalog Record
    Farming system research: an approach to developing of sustainable farming systems and the role of white clover as a component in nitrogen management
    Carl-Anders Helander
    University of Uppsala, 2002
    Catalog Record

    Government Documents

    Agricultural census report on input survey, Goa, Daman and Diu
    Directorate of Planning, Statistics, and Evaluation, Govt. of Goa
    Catalog Record
    Agriculture census reports, 1971/72, Rapti Zone, districts, Rukum, Ropla, Salyan, Pyuthan, Dang Deukhuri
    Nepal. Kendrīya Tathyāṅka Vibhāga
    His Majesty’s Govt. of Nepal, National Planning Commission Secretariat, Central Bureau of Statistics, 1976
    Catalog Record


    Cheese reporter
    Sheboygan Falls, Wis.: Perry & Perry Publishers

    CRL holds v.68, no.8–v.133, no.26 (Oct. 22, 1943–Dec. 26, 2008.

    Catalog Record
    N̄osh̄omu t̄okeihȳo
    Japan. N̄osh̄omush̄o. Daijin Kanb̄o. Kirokuka and Japan. N̄osh̄omush̄o. Daijin Kanb̄o. Bunshoka
    N̄osh̄omu Daijin Kanb̄o Kirokuka

    CRL holds no. 20 (1903), no. 24–25 (1907–08), no. 27 (1910), no. 29–35 (1912–18).

    Catalog Record
    The agricultural unionist
    National Agricultural Workers Union
    National Agricultural Workers Union, [1952-1954]
    Catalog Record


    A manual of scientific and practical agriculture, for the school and the farm
    John Lyle Campbell
    Lindsay & Blakiston, 1859
    Catalog Record
    Better rural careers; vocational aspects of rural life in the South
    Paul W. Chapman
    Textbook division, Science Research Associates, 1941
    Catalog Record
    Great American industries; second book : products of the soil
    William Francis Rocheleau
    A. Flanagan Co., 1906
    Catalog Record

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