Telling American Agriculture

The Smithsonian is preparing an exhibit – American Enterprise – which will open in the Spring of 2015. Smithsonian Division of Work and Industry Chair Peter Liebhold says agriculture plays an important role in understanding American business. He says it’s critical for people to understand the various innovations that have happened in agriculture since World War II..

“I can read books and historic articles and talk to other academics, but its going out into the field, riding the combine, hearing the farmers explain to me what is happening and hearing about the complexity that is really interesting. Our thought is that the farmer today is really like the CEO of a major corporation, the decisions that are being made are major: crops, marketing, finance, use of chemicals and others. To try to represent that range of challenges today is what we are trying to learn and pass on to visitors here.”

Liebhold says at the beginning of American history – 96-percent of Americans were farmers – so everyone knew agriculture’s importance…

“Today, less than 2% of Americans are farmers, but they are just as important. They are producing more food. Few people have contact with farming so its very important that museums like ours have a strong story that shows what farmers are doing.”
 

Monsanto donated 2-million dollars for this project. Tami Craig Schilling – Monsanto Vice President of Technology Communications – says farmers have done so much to build America. That’s why Monsanto is excited to be part of this project – to honor farm families in the past and present who have made agriculture what it is today…
 

“We felt like it was the right thing to do. A group of us rallied together and we had a meeting and by the end of the 40 minutes we knew it was the right thing to do. Within four days we had two million dollars to help tell the story. What is interesting to me is, as we talk with our customers, we ask what can we do in return for the support that you give us as our customers. They said ‘help us tell our story’.”

Schilling says the Smithsonian has created a website for people to share their stories and submit any objects they think should be in the exhibit…
 

“We told the folks at the museum to be ready. The folks in agriculture take action very quickly.”
 

If you would like to share your story or artifacts with the Smithsonian – visit  (www.AmericanHistory.SI.edu/agheritage).


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