The Great Depression, which followed the 1929 stock market crash, was a shock after the more carefree times just past. On the Stillwater campus, budgets were cut, extension services were curtailed, salaries dropped. Thirty-five faculty and athletic staff were released during the 1930-31 fiscal year.
While Aggie students might only have read about the horrors of the great financial losses on Wall Street, the tribulations of the Dust Bowl were closer at hand. Many Oklahomans kept their eyes peeled on the western horizon for the first signs of the ominous dust storms. Like a stifling blanket, the dust covered everything, settled on crops, sifted into homes, and left a gritty film on the face.
Thankfully, the ag experts on campus where ready to help with the clean up. They mobilized to bring relief and help farmers heal the soil. Led by N.E. Winters, the Department of Crops and Soils recruited students to conduct a county by county survey of soil types that was hailed by the USDA as one of the "greatest pieces of soil work ever done." The survey helped spark improved environmental stewardship in the state and region.
In the 1930s, cooperative extension agents convinced many farmers to terrace their fields, which allowed them to hold more moisture, reduce runoff and help break the grip of the Dust Bowl drought.