If you think back over the past 100 years, the world we live in today is a completely different one than the one our grandparents and great-grandparents grew up in. From the availability of electricity to the Internet to space travel to cell phones, technology has transformed everything about how we work and how we live. This is true in every aspect of our lives, even the ones that would seem to be less affected, like farming. The agriculture industry has gone from a labor-intensive process that employed 38% of the workforce in 1900 to a streamlined high-tech industry that uses only 2% of the workforce to produce significantly more food.
To celebrate American agriculture and document the extraordinary transformation in this industry that impacts every person in the country, The National Museum of American History has partnered with the American Farm Bureau Federation to document the history of farming and highlight the role agriculture has played in the development of our nation.
This initiative will feed into the development of a new exhibit, currently titled “American Enterprise”, that will take visitors on a multi-media journey through the history of our country and the role the nation’s business endeavors played in transforming us from a small struggling nation centered on farming to an economic superpower leading the world in business and technology. This new exhibit will feature examples of opportunity, innovation, completion, and the common good across five main areas including agriculture. While the exhibit is planned to open in 2015, the effort to document, collect, and curate the pieces of our history that can tell this story are being gathered now.
The exhibit plans to tell the story of American agriculture by pairing the experiences of those that lived it with the inventions and innovation that transformed the industry. It will include things like Eli Whitney’s cotton gin that transformed cotton production and an early tractor to show how these innovations changed the face of the American farm.
Here in Arizona, we have a proud agricultural tradition that extends back beyond the westward expansion that would eventually lead to statehood in 1912. From the cattle ranchers and cotton farmers of the late 1800’s to the citrus crops and sustainable practices of today, Arizona farmers and ranchers have played a part in helping agriculture shape our nation. Help ensure this part of our history is represented in the national conversation by donating to and/or participating in this initiative.
The National Museum of American History is currently collecting stories about how agriculture and other business endeavors have changed our lives through an easily accessible web portal.
You can participate by following these easy steps:
- Put on your historian hat and find your story. Think about your family’s history and look for examples of how technology and innovation has changed your life.
- Go to the webportal and use the “Share Your Story” form to submit your story.
- Tell your friends and visit your story on the site.
- Ask a Farmer: How Do We Get Kids Interested in Farming? (fillyourplate.org)
- Arizona Agricultural Exports (fillyourplate.org)
- When the Worst Happens, How Will You Feed Your Family? (fillyourplate.org)