On the Rodbaston Estate 583 acres had been bought and of these, 268 were formed into smallholdings for ex-service men. Some 315 acres, including the Hall and farm buildings, became the Farm Institute. The Hall was adapted to provide shared bedrooms
on the upper floors for 25 (all male) students, and a house was built for the Principal. Initially the farm buildings were unchanged, as after the war funds were in short supply for more extensive development. The first principal, Mr J C Rushton, took up his post at the beginning of 1920, and there were between 8 and 10 male staff and a matron.
The farm was deliberately run on commercial lines, to provide a model for local farmers and workers to visit and at the same time, trials of new farming techniques, demonstrations of new fertilisers and seed trials were begun. Detailed records of milk and meat production and crop yields were kept in large ledgers, written up daily in neat copperplate. In addition to the courses
and talks that were held at the farm, staff continued to go out into villages and farms to advise and educate. At the time there was some opposition in the press to introducing full-time courses for young men because farming traditionalists held that in such a labour intensive industry men could not be spared after the war years. Many believed that the country needed them on the farms where, it was argued, in any case, workers would learn far more than at a farm school. Nevertheless, the first 22 week course for men began in October 1921 – finishing in April, in time for the lads to go home and help with the harvest.
There were short summer courses (11 weeks) for women, beginning in 1922. Courses were advertised in the Staffordshire Advertiser for those, “Sons of farmers and others who intend to make their living from the land,” and courses for women were advertised, “To meet the needs of the daughters of farmers and others who wish to study milk production, butter making, cheese making, poultry keeping, bee keeping, and farmhouse cookery” (then called rural domestic science).
In 1926 as more funds became available from the county, the farm buildings were extensively remodelled and developed. A new dairy for butter and cheese making was built and the old dairy in the yard converted into a laboratory. A new wooden piggery was built, the cow houses were re-equipped and the milk dairy given new equipment for bottling milk. This was state-of-the-art at the time, since before then milk was traditionally sold “loose” from churns into housewives’ own milk jugs from the back of a horse-drawn milk cart.