The History of the Grootfontein College of Agriculture

(See also: Outline of main events since 1781)

Grootfontein's history goes back to 1903 when the British department of War purchased certain portions of the farms Grootfontein, Leeufontein, Bultfontein and De Poort for the purpose of establishing a military camp and training centre for British troops.


House Karoo Officers' Mess 

House Karoo was erected in 1903 as a mess for officers serving in the British garrison stationed at Grootfontein till 1910. Hereafter it was served as the beloved hostel of hundreds of Grootfontein students

When the Union of South Africa was established in 1910, the farm Grootfontein together with some military buildings and other equipment was purchased from the British Government by the last Minister of Agriculture of the Cape Colony, Mr FS Malan. On 7 February 1911 it was converted into an agricultural school and experimental station.




The first decent farmhouse at Grootfontein was erected by Nicolaas van der Walt in 1827. Currently it's the PW Vorster cultural/historical/military museum.



PW Vorster Museum


RW Thornton
Mr RW Thornton, the first principal, arrived at Grootfontein in June 1910. The Grootfontein School of Agriculture was officially opened in 1911 with an enrolment of 42 students, 15 professional and technical officers and an administrative personnel of six. The first student was Hansie Duvenhage and he and a friend arrived in Middelburg on 3 or 4 February 1911.


Discipline was strict, and permission was needed to leave the School. The paraffin lights had to be put out at 9 o'clock in the evening and the day started at 6 in the morning. The students worked on the farm in teams for a week and then spent a week in the classroom.

A special dairy course was introduced in 1913 with ten students, the maximum that could be taken. The first three-week short course was held in June 1913 and was attended by 30 persons. This was a course in Home Economics (Domestic Science).

The well-known sheep-and-wool course was introduced in 1919. This course was extremely popular from the beginning and the School could hardly keep up with the demand. Grootfontein also took the lead in starting the first Wool Growers' Associations - those of Middelburg and Graaff-Reinet in 1922. There were many "firsts" in the development of the Grootfontein Agricultural School in the years to come.

In the course of time the number of students grew, the courses and syllabi were progressively extended and adjusted to the requirements of the time. The educational facilities and number of staff accordingly increased so that by 1939, Grootfontein could be given College status and became known as the Grootfontein College of Agriculture.

Because of the Depression, a two-year course in agriculture was introduced in 1934. It was subsidised by the Government. This was followed by the introduction of an eight month sheep-and-wool course in 1936.

During the first week of October in 2001 the College was evaluated by the HEQC (Higher Education Quality Committee). Both the Higher Certificate in Agriculture, the Diploma in Agriculture and the Institute as a whole were accredited by the HEQC. This means that students who attain their certificates and diplomas, may further their qualifications (eg B.Tech), including degrees at certain Technikons.


Southen Entrance The Southern entrance of Grootfontein which was opened in 1936 during the 25th jubilee celebrations of the Grootfontein School of Agriculture


College Song / Kollegelied


Download song (.mp3) (Right click and select Select to Save)



For more information contact the Public Relations Officer:
E-mail: Relations Officer
Tel: 27 (0)49 842-1113
Fax: 27 (0)49 842-4352

Director: Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute
Private Bag X529
Eastern Cape