Northern Colorado has a rich agricultural heritage. Many of us who are natives have some connection to farming. I am a second generation Coloradan myself and, while I have never really spent time on a farm, I do come from a farming background. My mother grew up in Fort Morgan and had her first job as a teenager working in the town’s beet processing plant. Though her parents were both schoolteachers, they both grew up on farms in Iowa. I wish I had found out more about her family and their history when I had the chance.
I suspect that quite a few Forgotten Fort Collins readers come from farming families themselves. Now is your chance to share you stories and make a contribution to preserving our nation’s history. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is planning a new exhibition on the history of American agriculture and they are asking farm families for help. Agricultural Innovation and Heritage is a new online repository the museum has created to collect and preserve the history of modern agriculture.
To get started, the museum suggests you “explore old family photo albums, talk to relatives, and think about how transformations in American agriculture have affected you, your family, your community, and the environment.” Themes might include personal experience, labor, irrigation, technology, or animals.
To share your story, you fill out a form, write your story, and upload images, documents, or audio and video files that relate to your story. Your submission will be reviewed by museum staff and you will be notified when your story appears on the project website.
Need some inspiration? Fort Collins and Larimer County have played an important role in our nation’s agriculture. Was you family involved in the sugar beet industry? At one time, Northern Colorado had numerous orchards and was a major source of fruit production. Did you know that this area was once known for sheep ranching? Dairy farms were also prevalent.
You probably know that water rights law has a long and complicated history here and that innovations in irrigation technology made farming possible in our arid climate. Speaking of arid, does your family have stories about the Dust Bowl that decimated farms across the Eastern Plains in the 1930s?
So, why bother doing this? It’s an opportunity to get connected to your family’s and community’s past. Talk with your parents and grandparents and capture their stories, look through old photo albums, take new photos to document old buildings, farm equipment, and landscapes.
Having grown up in the west before living and working in Washington, DC for 15 years, I was always dismayed about how little western U.S. history is actually documented at the Smithsonian. The eastern part of the country is overrepresented, skewing the history. Sharing your stories with the museum will make a significant contribution to preserving our nation’s agricultural history because you will be helping to fill in the map and contribute to a richer, more complete, story of farming in America.