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Tossed Out

 

Smithsonian crowdsources new exhibit

No wonder he couldn't tell a lie - he was drinking! George Washington tried to enhance the value of his corn and rye by making 11,000 gallons of whiskey in this still. It will be part of the "American Enterprise" exhibit at the Smithsonian. (Photo courtesy the Smithsonian)
No wonder he couldn't tell a lie - he was drinking! George Washington tried to enhance the value of his corn and rye by making 11,000 gallons of whiskey in this still. It will be part of the "American Enterprise" exhibit at the Smithsonian. (Photo courtesy the Smithsonian)

As the global economy broadens, it’s becoming rare to see an all-American industry – with one exception.

Agriculture is still a USA-centric business, with exports reaching an all-time high last year.  (I would report the number, but those that begin with a B are a little over my head.)

So it makes sense that the Smithsonian has taken notice and is building a new exhibit called “American Enterprise,” set to debut in 2015. Our reporter Abbie Swanson was in Washington last week and talked to Peter Liebhold, who will curate the exhibit.

Abbie said she loved Liebhold’s excitement over what we consider “our” beat – food production and farming. Here’s what he told her:

I was not trained as an agricultural historian. I really came out of industrial, manufacturing history. But I find that the questions that you have in the history of manufacturing, traditional industrial revolution questions, are exactly the questions of agriculture. That it’s about capital, it’s about labor, it’s about productivity. The amount of science in agriculture is just stunning. And it is just an untapped field. I guess we could say it’s a fertile field.

It’s a bad pun but in terms of this incredible history, agriculture is just so meaningful to the country and so ripe with insight into how we decide. And so critical to our future -- that agricultural products are, in terms of balance of payment for the nation. This is one of the things that we continue to export is agricultural goods. We may be importing TV sets and toaster ovens but we are a net exporter of agricultural goods.

The cool thing about this 8,000-square feet exhibit is that it will be created, at least in part, with tools and stories by you. The museum is crowdsourcing an archive of stories, photos and ephemora to accompany the exhibition – click here to learn how to contribute.

Or if you’d like to simply share your story or thoughts with us, talk to the Harvest Network about how you think the Smithsonian should create the history of U.S. agriculture.