The land grant system is a value-added infrastructure, designed to extend the boundaries of traditional colleges and universities to bring science to bear on the pressing needs and problems of underserved citizens and communities. With supplemental resources to support mission-oriented research and outreach, the system has addressed a market failure in higher education. It has been a key asset in achieving for the United States a vibrant agricultural economy, a prominent position in world trade, significant rural development, healthy families and communities, and the increasingly sustainable natural resource base that are characteristic of "the great American Society." This paper explores some of the recent challenges facing the land grant system, provides a framework for examining these challenges, and stresses the need for a new cadre of "land grant economists" to provide leadership as land grants struggle to identify new visions, missions, programs, and innovations that would serve as the bedrock of a new system. Selected areas of emerging opportunities for land grant intervention are also identified.