The first "Farmers’ Institute," was a three-day event held in December,1902 at the County Courthouse. This event, similar to the county fair, was only open to county exhibitors with no entry fee being charged.
The Lawrenceville Republican ran several front page articles leading up to the event, and the December 11 issue published the winners in the various classes. Conservative estimates placed the attendance for each of the first two days at 800 and the last day at 1500. The night sessions featured speakers on agricultural topics, and it was said in the newspaper that the court house was crowded to its fullest capacity. On Thursday it was plain that the court room would not accommodate the crowd so the audience room of the First M.E. Church was secured for a second program site.
Thirty horses and seven mules comprised the horse exhibit with twenty-three animals competing in the cattle exhibit. These, along with the hog exhibit were held at the Adams livery barn and continually crowded with visitors. The horticulture exhibit was held in the west basement room of the courthouse, and the cereal (grain) department held in the hallway upstairs. The culinary department was located in the county court room.
The variety of items grown or produced in Lawrence County in enough quantity, as well as livestock breeds, to justify separate classes is quite interesting. For example, cash prizes were offered in the grain department for corn, popcorn, wheat, oats, rye, sunflower seeds, and grass seed (clover, timothy, German millet, and cowpeas). There were nine different apple variety classes, as well as three sweet potato varieties. The courthouse basement was filled with classes for eleven breeds of chickens as well as three classes of turkeys.
A traveling silver cup was offered to the owner of the best short-horn bull. Another silver cup was to be awarded the school with the best essay. (Fillmore won that first year.) Globe Mills of Sumner donated 100 lbs. of flour to the lady who baked the best loaf of bread, and A.H. Piper offered a one dollar prize for the best calico dress made by a young lady under 14. The winner of the best chocolate cake would receive 1 dozen linen napkins, while the best baker of a caramel layer cake would receive a handsome Bible. (The second prize winner would receive a 5 year subscription to the Farm Journal.) The lady churning the best pound of butter would receive a $2.00 pair of shoes but the rules clearly stated the butter could not be artificially colored. In total, over $500 was offered in premiums.