Established in Istanbul in 1892, Halkalı Agricultural Academy was the first, and for many years the only, school to offer advanced agricultural education in Turkey. Attempts to establish agricultural schools can be traced back to the Tanzimat period. The first of these schools was the Ziraat Talimhanesi (Agricultural Practical School), which opened in Yeşilköy in 1847. While the initial purpose of this school was to improve cotton cultivation, it later broadened to include more fields of study and incorporated new knowledge from the United States. Closed in 1851, the short-lived Ziraat Talimhanesi was distinguished as the first agricultural school of the country and the first school to use contemporary agricultural equipment.
Under Abdülhamid II, interest in agricultural research and contemporary farming methods flourished, leading to the establishment of agricultural schools outside of Istanbul. Some of these secondary schools were named Hamidiye Ziraat Ameliyat Mektebi (Hamidiye Agricultural Practice Schools) in honor of the sultan. The first examples of these schools were Hamidiye Ziraat Mektebi (Hamidiye Agricultural School), established in Edirne in 188, 1and Numune Çiftliği (the Specimen Farm), as well as the short-lived Selanik Ziraat Mektebi (Thessaloniki Agricultural School), built between the years of 1887 and 1888, and the Hüdavendigar Hamidiye Ziraat Ameliyat Mektebi (Hüdavendigar Hamidiye Agricultural Practical School), built in Bursa in 1891. Other than these schools, which offered general agricultural education, some specialized schools in fields like sericulture, apiculture and viticulture were also opened. However, among the agricultural schools established in this era, Halkalı Ziraat Mekteb-i Alisi (Halkalı Agricultural Academy) was definitely the most important.
Initial attempts to open a higher education agricultural school were made in 1878–1879, when Ahmed Cevdet Pasha (d. 1895) was the Minister of Commerce and Agriculture. Amasyan Efendi, who was appointed to the newly-established Directorate of Agriculture in the ministry and who had studied agriculture in France, led this attempt. The establishment was completed in 1891, after the land in Halkalı had been bought and the school building had been constructed. The school was originally named Halkalı Ziraat ve Baytar Mektebi Alisi (Halkalı Agricultural and Veterinary Academy), as after the building was completed, the Mülkiye Veterinary School, established within the Mülkiye Medical School, was moved to this building. One year later in 1892 agricultural students were admitted. In 1894, after two years of students had graduated from the veterinary school, it became a separate school; the school then became solely an agricultural academy and students were matriculated from 1896. In accordance with the nizamname (regulations) of the school, the school only accepted high school graduates and provided three years of higher education. Somewhat later, the school was renamed Halkalı Ziraat ve Orman Mekteb-i Alisi Halkalı (Agricultural and Sylvicultural Academy), due to the addition of sylviculture and forestry courses; in 1910 the Sylvicultural Academy was established and those new departments were transferred there. Henceforth known as Halkalı Ziraat Mekteb-i Alisi, the school was obliged to close for a short time during World War I. When it was reopened, a Farm Machine Operator Department was opened to spread and increase the use of new agricultural equipment by farmers.
To distribute information about the results of research carried out in the farms attached to the school, teachers of Halkalı Ziraat Mekteb-i Alisi published a periodical in the school. Named Halkalı Ziraat Mektebi Alisi Mecmuası (Journal of Halkalı Agricultural Academy), seven issues of this journal were published between 1917 and 1918, containing articles about research and the results of various study trips. In addition to agriculture and husbandry, these articles encompassed other subjects, such as the climate and the agricultural structure of Anatolia, agriculture in other countries, mineral studies, pest control, forestry and geology. Even though the journal was published only for a short time, it is an important source that provides clues about the work carried out by the teachers of Halkalı Ziraat Mekteb-i Alisi and the school’s educational standards.
Closed during the Armistice, the school was reorganized in the Republican era and a great number of the graduates of Halkalı Ziraat Mekteb-i Alisi were sent abroad for further education and to learn contemporary research methods. On July 5, 1927, Law No. 1109, “Law about the Foundation of Agricultural and Veterinary Institutions and Academies and Reformation of Agricultural Instruction,” was passed. With this law, the Ministry of Agriculture was given authority and funds to establish agricultural and veterinary schools, provide the necessary buildings and equipment, conduct scientific researches both domestically and abroad, and bring in foreign experts. Another clause of the law gave the same ministry the authority to reform and consolidate the existing schools. Pursuant to this law, Halkalı Ziraat Mekteb-i Alisi was closed in 1928 and its students were sent to the Forestry Academy in Istanbul.
Following its closure, Halkalı Ziraat Mekteb-i Alisi’s historic building was used by the Agricultural Vocational High School and then later for the Ministry of Agriculture’s internal training activities. This building is still in use today, currently by Sabahattin Zaim University, the private foundation renting it from 2010.
Halkalı Ziraat Mekteb-i Alisi was for many years the only agricultural academy in Turkey; at times it also offered veterinary and forestry education. While it was a pioneer in the spread of contemporary agricultural methods and equipment in the Ottoman Empire, it also served as an institution which produced educators and bureaucrats in agricultural fields. The graduates directed Turkey’s agricultural activities both in the Ottoman and the Early Republican eras.
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