ABOUT AFS   /   History

After 30 years of service in the Balkans, enlightened American educator Dr. John Henry House with his wife, Susan Adeline, founded the American Farm School in 1904 on the outskirts of Thessaloniki The first students were boys orphaned in one of the many uprisings marking the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in Europe.

Dr. House was known as a practical idealist, dedicated to “educating the whole individual: the head, the hands, the heart.” Hands-on training in field and garden crops, vineyards and orchards, livestock and silkworm production, and in industrial skills such as carpentry, masonry and blacksmithing, equipped American Farm School graduates to succeed in farming and, over time, aid in the economic development of Greece.

Modest donations of funds and equipment from a loyal circle of supporters in the United States helped the institution to survive through its early years, as it bore witness to two Balkan Wars, World War I and the massive resettlement in Greece of refugees from Asia Minor.

The 1930s, a period of expanding academic facilities and bringing the latest agricultural innovations to Greece, gave way to World War II and Occupation; to the ensuing civil war; and to postwar efforts to reconstruct Greek agriculture and agricultural education. During the second half of the 20th century the School was led by Bruce M. Lansdale, an American teacher, engineer and philhellene who shared with his wife, Tad, a remarkable ability to communicate with and inspire people in all walks of life. Milestones of the time included coeducation; short courses and technical advice for farmers in the region, incorporation of information technology across the campus and educational farm, and “training of trainers” programs for international groups.

Faced with growing demand for higher education, the American Farm School established the Perrotis College of Agriculture, Environment and Life Sciences in 1996, through a gift from Mrs. Aliki Perroti. The English language curriculum serves an international student body with innovative specializations leading to a Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree that is recognized worldwide. The American Farm School today is taking agriculture and life sciences education into the 21st century, while remaining true to its roots and century-long tradition of hands-on learning.

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