Cedara College dates back to the earliest years of the previous century. The land on which the Central Experiment Farm and Agricultural College for Natal was to be built was bought by the Natal Government in 1902. The land, 1542 ha, consisted of parts of the farm "Driefontein" which was granted to Frans Ignatius Maritz in 1851, and "Rietspruit", which was granted to Theodore Menne and Joseph Hansmeyer in 1849. However, when eventually the land was purchased by the State, it belonged to G M B Westhead.
The foundation stone of the "School of Agriculture and Forestry" was laid on 28 April 1905. The College, after Elsenburg, is the second oldest agricultural college in South Africa. Renovations to the original 1905 building, which has accommodated many students, were completed in 1994 and the building was then declared a national monument. The building today serves as the corporate headquarters of the College and houses most of the academic staff.
The original prospectus advertised lectures in Forestry, Horticulture, Dairying, Veterinary Science, Chemistry, Elementary Mathematics, Bookkeeping, Farm Surveying, Zoology and Fish Husbandry. Many of these subjects are still presented as part of the current curriculum. In the early years the students lived and worked as true farmers and were only allowed very short vacations. Lectures were in the late afternoons and in the early evenings so that the students could do ordinary farm work during the day. They had to be in their rooms by 21:30 and lights had to be out by 22:00. Students under 18 years were not allowed to smoke and students were not permitted to visit a bar.
The Cedara College of Agriculture has grown from its initial humble beginnings to a well-known and sought-after institution. Cedara, site of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs is not only the home of the College, but carries out important research and a well-structured advisory service, and is also responsible for the conservation of the region's natural resources. Students at the College are therefore in the fortunate position of being in the midst of a wider scientific community.
In 1998 the College moved into a new era with specialization (Animal Production or Crop Production) and a credit system being introduced for the first time. A student needed 675 credits to obtain a Higher Certificate in Agriculture and a further 300 credits to obtain a Diploma in Agriculture. This credit rating is currently under revision to bring it into line with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) regulations.