BETHEL – The Bethel Historical Society is offering a course in Maine farming history from the 17th century to the present as 2005 will be, among other things, a year of celebration of all things agricultural.

The course, coordinated by society Director Stanley R. Howe, who has written and lectured on agricultural history topics, will begin on Thursday, March 17, with a presentation on Maine farming from 1600 to the Civil War.

The class will focus on the origins of Maine agriculture with the Indians, colonial settlement, the rise of agricultural societies and experiments to achieve prosperity in working the land.

The next class will be held on Thursday, March 31, and cover the years from 1860 to the present. The development of large-scale operations will be studied along with the effect of western competition on Maine operations.

Also noted will be rise and fall of corn canning, dairy, potatoes and seed operations. The role of the University of Maine, the formation of the Department of Agriculture and the founding of the Cooperative Extension Service will also be discussed.

On April 14, the topic will be Maine farm diaries and buildings and on April 28, the final class, farm organizations and the future of Maine farming.

The course is open to anyone interested. Classes will be held at the society’s O’Neil Robinson House at 7:30 p.m. The fee is $20 for nonmembers and $15 for members. Those wishing to register should call the society office at 824-2908 or 1-800-824-2910. On-line registration is also possible and fees can be paid at the first class on March 17.

The e-mail address is [email protected] and the Web site is

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