History of Tolland Agricultural Center
In 1955 leaders of the Tolland County Farm Bureau, which then sponsored the Tolland County Extension service, realized the need for a permanent home for the Extension Service. The previous office for the Extension Service was destroyed when the building caught fire in downtown Rockville. It was decided by the Farm Bureau that property would be selected to create the Tolland County Agricultural Center. Several sites were looked at when deciding the future location of the Tolland County Agricultural Center. Through the generosity of the Town of Vernon, a portion of the former Town Farm property, became available for purchase for the sum of $10,000. Local farmers joined together and voted in favor of purchasing the property.
In 1956 the Tolland County Agricultural Center was incorporated by county leaders in 4-H, homemaking and agricultural programs. It was envisioned that the center would provide space for the 6,000 individuals who were actively involved in programs such as 4-H, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, etc. The center was established as a non-profit, self-supporting organization which would be owned by the individuals who contributed $25 or more towards the development of the center.
With the need for funding becoming necessary, the Tolland County Agricultural Center Board of Trustees developed a fund-raising project. The project reached out to local community members as well as legislative members asking for cash donations, pledges, and offering auctions. Local legislators appropriated $11,120 towards this civic project.
Once funding was available, Tolland County Agricultural Center began to grow. During the summer of 1959 an activities building was constructed with the help of a local carpenter and the assistance of volunteer labor. Shortly after, a horse show ring was developed, water lines were installed and a parking lot was created with the assistance of local farmers who contributed their equipment towards the development. Once an established grounds had been created the Tolland County Annual 4-H Fair permanently moved to the Tolland County Agricultural Centers grounds where it has remained to this day.
During 1960 the Tolland County Agricultural Center continued to expand. The Board of Trustees began planning out the construction of the Main Office Building which was planned to house the County Extension Service, Agricultural Stabilization & Conservation Service, Soil Conservation Service and the Selective Service. Also in this building, meeting rooms were constructed so that members of various agricultural, homemaking & youth development programs could meet in the facility. The building also contained a demonstration kitchen for both adult and youth homemaking groups.
In the early 1960’s the Tolland County Agricultural Center was hailed as one of the most outstanding civic projects ever planned by the people of Tolland County. As one reporter noted – "This forward-looking program will be of immeasurable value to the people of Tolland County in the years to come. These facilities will help improve the program for the development of our youth and teaching of new skills for the enrichment of our homes. Maintaining a prosperous agriculture, with a gross of nine million dollars a year is important not only to the economy of our farm people but to our business people as well."
Over fifty years have come and gone since this project was merely a vision of agricultural and homemaking leaders in Tolland County.
Six more structures have been added to the property to make it more beneficial to the many groups which now hold their programs on the TAC grounds. The offices are currently rented by the North Central Conversation District (NCCD), the Connecticut Cooperative Extension System (which includes the 4-H youth education program), the Integrated Pesticides Management program, the Master Gardeners and SARE Program.
Current projects on the grounds include the many gardens, a labyrinth that blooms in the spring, grass demonstration plots and the nature area and trails. The grounds and meeting spaces are used for such events as the Sheep and Wool Festival, the Tolland County 4-H Fair, dog shows, Environthons, Boy Scout Jamborees, the UConn Parenting Programs and a variety of 4-H meetings.