In 1953, Loren D. Phillips led the development of the agricultural
program at Chico State. A few years later, a four-year degree
program was offered for the first time at the university. Part
of the creation of the agricultural program focused on acquiring
land for the university farm. The first farm was located on fourteen
acres of land off of Sacramento Avenue. This farmland was rented
in 1954 from Native Americas who owned the property. A year later
the university farm moved to 440 acres of Diamond Match property.
While this land was a valuable asset to the new agriculture program,
it was not adequate as a teaching facility.
Senator Paul L. Byrne led an effort to acquire more farmland
in 1957. With his help, the university was granted $500,000 for
the purchase of land in the Chico area. The university first tried
to purchase 588 acres of the Patrick Compton Ranch, but the funds
for the purchase were not accessible at the time. Sen. Byrne continued
to push for university farmland, and helped gather more funding
for a larger section of property. In 1960, the university acquired
644 acres of the Navarra-Hengst Ranch on Hegan Lane. Throughout
the 1960s, the farm was developed in three phases, with additions
of barns, silos, greenhouses and many other facilities. In 1963
the farm was dedicated as the Paul L. Byrne Memorial Farm, in
honor of the Senator that made the university farm a reality.
Today the farm totals approximately 800 acres.
Paul L. Byrne graduated from Chico State in 1932. He had served
in the marines in World War II, and later served as a politician
in the state legislature. After his death in 1962, the farm was
dedicated in his honor.