Father Kelley, the Ag Ed Promoter. . .
Oliver Hudson Kelley, himself had no formal training in Agriculture, indeed, there was no formal agricultural education when Kelley was a student. Instead, Kelley taught himself the art and business of farming through reading and experimentation. He, and others, referred to himself as a "book farmer," a slightly derogatory term used to describe farmers who didn't come from an agricultural family or background.
Kelley understood the importance of education. He was educated with an expensive and prestigious private education from Chauncey Hall Prep School for Boys, a preparatory school for Harvard. Oliver Hudson Kelley's formal high school diploma Chauncey Hall is the equivalent of a modern master's degree.
In his last major speech as National Grange Secretary, given in 1877, he gave his full attention to the importance of formal agricultural education in public schools:
"I believe we may do much in our Granges to relieve distress and avoid future labor troubles, by encouraging the establishment of industrial schools and making agriculture one of the principal studies. Some of the teachings in school should be how the scholar may earn his own living, so that when he leaves school he may enter at once upon a practical existence, instead of having no fixed purpose, the mind crammed with the usual routine of studies and the youth soliciting employment of any kind that may be obtained. . . . Let these studies commence in the common schools, and not wait until the child is fifteen years of age, as is now required, to enter an agricultural college. Not one in one hundred has the means or time to secure a collegiate education, and but few of those who do return to the farm. . . . This is no theoretical notion. Food, clothing and shelter comprise the actual necessities of life; the quality varies with the circumstances of the individual. Teach every child how it may obtain these and at fifteen years of age it can start out with some fixed object in life and with the principles of industry established."
Oliver Hudson Kelley is the first American to advocate for the teaching of agricultural education in the public school system.