In celebration of its “92 years of science and service in Marin,” the University of California Cooperative Extension has assembled a photography exhibit of Marin County farming and ranching between 1920 and 1950.

The exhibit at Toby’s Feed Barn in Point Reyes Station consists of scenes of local agriculture that M.B. Boissevain, Marin’s first UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor, photographed as he went about his rounds.

At the exhibit on Sunday, Dewey Livingston (left) and Juliet Braslow pointed out to the crowd what certain photographs reveal about the evolution of Marin County agriculture during the past century.

Being released in conjunction with the exhibit is a book of historic photographs, M.B. Boissevain, Marin’s First Farm Advisor.

Historian Livingston of Inverness served as photographic curator for the book and was responsible for “rephotography.” Braslow is the sustainable agriculture coordinator at UC Cooperative Extension in Marin.

Joe McCammon in his field of Harding grass. Fallon, 1925. Black-and-white photos from M.B. Boissevain, Marin’s First Farm Advisor.

“Marett Burridge (M.B.) Boissevain began as Marin’s first UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor in 1920,” Livingston notes in a forward to the photography book. “UC Berkeley, California’s land-grant university, was sending agricultural agents out to communities up and down the state to spread practical information and new farming methods.

“He brought with him progressive ideas, and technological innovations, while advocating farmer cooperation. M.B. Boissevain served as an agronomist, community leader, and photographer for 30 years….

“During his tenure, he organized 4-H clubs in rural communities where young people and their families could practice new techniques with hands-on agricultural projects. These activities produced a new generation of farmers interested in education and enhanced the productivity of Marin agriculture for decades after.”

Before Boissevain started organizing 4-H clubs in Marin County, there was only one club with 33 members. By the time he retired 30 years later, there were 18 clubs with a total of 648 members.

Tomales High’s original agriculture teacher, William Reasoner (seen here with his students in 1927), organized the first Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter in Tomales. In 1931, Reasoner’s students took the cattle-judging trophy at the National Dairy Show in St. Louis.

Members of Tomales High’s Purebred Pig Club seen on a 1927 pig tour with Charles Hampton, club leader and school principal.

Boyd Stewart planting oats and forage-crop test plots at Stewart Ranch in Nicasio in 1930. The late rancher’s daughter JoAnn Stewart is quoted in the book as saying, “In 1927, Boyd bought a John Deere tractor, a Model D, from Adolf Holmes in Petaluma, and Boyd told me that it came on the train to Petaluma and Boyd drove that tractor  from Petaluma to Nicasio.”

Cow tester C.C. Goodale at Dan Bondietti’s Ranch in Tomales in 1923.

A contemporary rancher, James Marshall, noted that Boissevain “introduced cow testing, which improved the dairy herds, and then of course [aided in] the elimination of Bangs disease and tuberculosis [from Marin’s dairy herds].” Bangs disease can cause cows to abort or give birth prematurely.

As for increased production during Boissevain’s tenure, Ellie Rilla of Marin’s Cooperative Extension Service writes in the book, “When he began in 1920 there were 24,797 dairy cows producing 3,389 million pounds of butterfat [per year].

“By 1925, there were 25,069 cows producing 4.89 million pounds of butterfat…. Twenty years later, Marin cows produced 7.5 million pounds of butterfat.” Boissevain always advised ranchers to increase production with better cows, not bigger herds.

Boissevain holding oats and vetch at Bear Valley Farm in Olema, 1922.

In 1950 when Boissevain retired as farm advisor, there were 200 dairy ranches in Marin County. There are now only 29.

Nonetheless, “dairy and livestock continue to be the foundation of agricultural production [in Marin],” writes farm advisor David Lewis in the exhibit’s  book. The herds average 300 cows on approximately 600 acres.

Unfortunately, the traveling exhibit at Toby’s will come down this Wednesday, Oct. 31. It will be be shown next in the Board of Supervisors gallery at Civic Center. M.B. Boissevain, Marin’s First Farm Advisor, the book of photographs in the exhibition, was published by the University of California. It totals 123 pages. I got a copy from Point Reyes Books for $30.