Did you know the story behind President’s Day? President’s Day is celebrated on the third Monday in February. The holiday was originally Washington’s Birthday and his birthday is February 22nd. Then in 1971 the holiday became President’s Day. States are free to call the holiday what they choose and can celebrate as they choose.
So is there a connection to President’s Day and agriculture? Yes, of course! President Washington was called the “Foremost Farmer”. He devoted much of his life to improving our American agriculture. He was an avid record keeper and these detailed records would become valuable journals of agricultural history. Post war improvements to his farm led him to support founding the Philadelphia Society for promoting agriculture . It is also amazing to see the connections and importance of farm animals to George Washington and his farm. He had hogs, cattle, sheep, chickens, turkeys, bees and much more. In many of his personal journals, Washington shared the details of the successes and hardships to raising such a variety of animals on his farm. Our Lending Library has a great book called Farmer George Plants a Nation that tells all about George’s forward thinking and real-life struggles on his Mount Vernon farm.
President Lincoln left quite an amazing legacy in agriculture, as well. He set into law the Department of Agriculture . Lincoln was a pioneer farmer, living much of his foundational years on the family farm. That led him to be recognized as a representative for the farmer and frontier, small town life and later to become the sixteenth President of the United States. Lincoln signed into law the Homestead Act in 1862 taking land from public to private ownership, allowing many farms to be created. One quite amazing quote came from Lincoln and is still just as true today: “No other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought, as agriculture.” Lincoln knew the importance of agriculture to the economy and livelihood of all people. In 1862 he passed the Morrill Act which revolutionized higher education and agriculture. States built universities that specialized in agriculture, mechanics and military with land grants to build and maintain them. Iowa was the first state to accept the terms and build Iowa State Agricultural College (now known as Iowa State University).
What else sets this day aside to celebrate Presidents? A lot of the holiday is reflected in the education system and there are lessons organized to help educate students as well as allow them to enjoy the learning process with fun activities. Many states require public schools to focus teaching on the accomplishments of past presidents, especially Washington and Lincoln. Preschool to high school there are many topics to learn about such as: U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, histories of all past presidents and lessons about the government. Teachers do a great job of making this celebrated day interesting and educational and there are so many ties to agriculture! Check out IALF’s Pinterest page for more interesting and fun ideas for President’s Day activities. I close by sharing a link with you that quotes a few of the past Presidents heartfelt gratitude to the farmers of our great United States.