In a special donation ceremony, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History received five FFA (formerly known as Future Farmers of America) jackets into the collection. The FFA jackets will be part of the museum’s upcoming business history exhibition, “American Enterprise,” opening July 2015.
“Agriculture is a critical part of American history and there is no better example of youth preparation for the challenges of the field than participation in FFA,” Curator Peter Liebhold said. “With growing interest in environmental stewardship, food security and an independent life, agriculture is an increasingly attractive profession for a diverse group of Americans, as exemplified by our donors.”
The jackets will be donated by former President Jimmy Carter; Corey Flournoy, director of the Illinois Center for Urban Agricultural Education; Karlene Lindow Krueger, American Star Farmer award recipient; Jesse Godbold, former Florida Cooperative Extension Service agricultural agent; and Mary Louise Reynnells, National Agricultural Library technical information specialist.
The jackets will individually rotate on display in an exhibition area focused on the role of agriculture in American business history. Nearby will be the “Farming Challenge,” a hands-on multimedia experience in which visitors will enter a replica of a modern tractor cab complete with a steering wheel, guidance controls and yield monitors. They will then be asked to make a series of decisions that 21st-century farmers face on a daily basis and will quickly discover that the cab of a tractor can be likened to a CEO’s office.
Founded in 1928, the National FFA Organization is a youth organization of 579,678 student members with 7,570 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The FFA jacket was adopted as part of the official dress in 1933. Each jacket is blue corduroy and unique in its display of the owner’s name, state and chapter.
In addition to their jackets, the donors are also contributing their agricultural education stories from their youth and photos to the museum’s Agricultural and Innovation Heritage Archive, an online portal launched in 2013 in which Americans are asked to share their agricultural experiences, particularly those involving innovation, in order to document the enriching influence of agriculture in the United States and to share those stories with visitors.
“American Enterprise” will tell the nation’s business story, tracing the country’s evolution from a small, dependent agricultural nation to one of the world’s strongest economies, centered on the themes of opportunity, innovation, competition and the search for common good in the American marketplace. “American Enterprise” will convey the drama, breadth and diversity of America’s business heritage along with its benefits, failures and unanticipated consequences, through four chronological sections: the Merchant Era (1770s–1850s), the Corporate Era (1860s–1930s), the Consumer Era (1940s–1970s) and the Global Era (1980s–2010s). The exhibition was made possible through the support of Mars Inc., the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, SC Johnson, Monsanto Company, Intel, United Soybean Board, Motorola Foundation, 3M and Pete and Linda Claussen.
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the richness and complexity of American history. The museum helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. For more information, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu. The museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.