Bob Nielsen of the agronomy department of Purdue University discusses corn hybrids during a field day Thursday marking the 100th anniversary of the Davis Purdue Agricultural CenterĀ in Randolph County, south of Redkey. (The Commercial Review/Jack Ronald)
Bob Nielsen of the agronomy department of Purdue University discusses corn hybrids during a field day Thursday marking the 100th anniversary of the Davis Purdue Agricultural CenterĀ in Randolph County, south of Redkey. (The Commercial Review/Jack Ronald)
More than 400 farmers and agribusiness people gathered Thursday to mark the 100th anniversary of the Davis Purdue Ag Center on Indiana 1 between Redkey and Farmland in Randolph County.

Between field day demonstrations on topics such as nutrient management, weed resistance, and pollination, participants celebrated the former Davis farm’s long history as a site for Purdue research, development and education.

The Davis Purdue Ag Center, located at 6230 N. Indiana 1, Farmland, began as a gift to Purdue from Martha Davis, the widow of Dr. Lewis Davis; but if it were not for the efforts of a Portland attorney, the research center that exists today might not have happened.

Martha Davis intended to give the university 385 acres known as the Herbert Davis Forestry Farm, naming the farm after her son Herbert, who died at age 19.

But when she died in 1917, it took the skills of her executor — Charles Schwartz — to make sure the deal was consummated.

Schwartz, born in Pike Township, was a businessman as well as an attorney, serving as a vice president of First National Bank. He convinced Purdue’s then-president, Winthrop Stone, to travel to Portland to go over the will and the proposed gift.

Schwartz had also been involved in helping manage the Davis farms after the death of Lewis Davis in 1912. As a permanent member of the Board of Control of the Herbert Davis Forestry Farm, he was in a key position for the transition to Purdue’s involvement.

In fact, Davis Center historians say, “Davis Purdue Ag Center likely wouldn’t exist today if it had not been for Charles Schwartz.”

Purdue, meanwhile, was still finding its footing and wasn’t sure how to put the facility to use. While it had one other agricultural research center, the Davis site was the university’s first introduction to the soils and farming challenges of East Central Indiana.

Over the century, the site has been used for a wide variety of farming-related research: A Belgian stallion owned by the Davis farm provided stud service in the era when not every farmer owned a tractor and swine breeding research was conducted, as well as research in cattle breeding.

More recently, Purdue’s research has focused on agronomy and trends such as precision farming.