The Farm Credit System, established in 1916 as the country’s first Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE), is a network of financial cooperatives owned by its customers, primarily farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses and rural infrastructure providers. In 2013, Farm Credit began planning for its 100th anniversary. Its goal was to use the centennial milestone to celebrate achievements and reinforce the System’s legacy of supporting American agriculture. The core audiences for these messages were borrower-owners, lenders, and the public.
To help tell their story, Farm Credit turned to FleishmanHillard and HAI. The challenge was twofold: (1) to locate and preserve the System’s dispersed historical records, and (2) to empower Farm Credit organizations to celebrate the centennial on a local, regional, and national level. The Farm Credit System has no centralized leadership and more than 75 independently owned and operated organizations.
Preserving the Past
Farm Credit serves the entire country. Consequently, its historical record is dispersed across public institutions and System organizations. HAI’s researchers scoured public repositories to find letters, journals, photographs, speeches, and film clips documenting Farm Credit’s importance to American agriculture.
At the same time, HAI’s archivists and collections managers worked within the Farm Credit System. These teams identified, processed, cataloged, and digitized archival materials held at Farm Credit banks and associations. Their efforts ensured preservation of the System’s most valuable assets.
Empowering Local Organizations
Having collected thousands of historical assets, the next step was determining how to share these resources with members of the Farm Credit System. Working with Farm Credit and the software company Bowerbird, HAI historians, archivists, and collection managers uploaded more than 2,500 items to History Bank, a heritage asset-management system that delivers the captured historical resources to System writers, designers, and communicators.
HAI also encouraged Farm Credit organizations to explore their history and maintain their own collections. HAI hosted webinars and Q&A sessions, wrote blogs, and conducted roundtable discussions with System communicators. HAI created and distributed to the System a research and preservation guide named “Be Your Own Historian.” It also created a 15-minute customizable PowerPoint to aid System officials presenting Farm Credit’s 100 years of history.
Celebrating the Centennial
As the July 2016 anniversary neared, HAI worked with partner FleishmanHillard to develop a website commemorating the centennial on a national level. The site—www.farmcredit100.com—featured a timeline of Farm Credit milestones and a searchable collection of the 100 best historical images, journals, letters, videos, audio files, and other records. On social media, HAI also helped Farm Credit’s national communications team generate excitement with popular “Throwback Thursday” and “On This Day” posts.
In a first for the company, HAI’s archivists also opened a time capsule that had been buried in the 1960s by Farm Credit officials to honor the System’s 50th anniversary. Unearthed in Larned, Kansas, the capsule was shipped to HAI’s Rockville office, where archivists carefully unbolted the lid, cataloged and digitized the assets, and flattened curling documents and images. HAI’s team used the digitized time capsule materials to develop an exhibit displaying the capsule’s contents at the Farm Credit Council’s 2016 annual meeting.
Thanks to a diverse team of historians, archivists, collections managers, and exhibit planners HAI was able to support an event as big as the Farm Credit System’s 100th anniversary.
“Our centennial was an opportunity to tell the Farm Credit story and to celebrate the success of our borrower-owners,” said Todd Van Hoose, CEO and president of Farm Credit Council. “For 100 years, agriculture and rural enterprise has powered American prosperity and lifted all Americans. The financial support of Farm Credit made that progress possible.”