Prince Georges County (Maryland) Executive Rushern L. Baker, III and many of the county’s senior officials were treated to an expertly led information gathering visit and tour of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) and the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) on June 20. For several of the county visitors, it was their first official visit to these landmark Beltsville institutions located in Prince George's County. One singularly impressed senior official was overheard to say that he had just discovered a couple of the county’s best kept secrets.
And how appropriate that this high-level group of county officials should chose 2012 for their visit, this year marking 150 years since President Abraham Lincoln signed into law a watershed act of congress which among other things “established [within] … the United States a Department of Agriculture, the general designs and duties of which shall be to acquire and to diffuse among the people of the United States useful information on subjects connected with agriculture in the most general and comprehensive sense of that word, and to procure, propagate, and distribute among the people new and valuable seeds and plants.”
Today, NAL covers scholarly agricultural literature comprehensively. Its purpose is to ensure the collection represents the content and diversity of the world's agricultural literature. NAL has expanded its capacity to meet researchers and the general public's demand for electronic and digital agricultural information. NAL will remain on the leading edge of modern Information Technology in the days and years ahead.
After the NAL visit, County Executive Baker and his group boarded a BARC bio-fuel bus for an information-laden tour through some of BARC’s 7,000 acres. BARC Director Joseph Spence would provide fast-paced commentary and instruction. While pointing out highlights along the way, Dr. Spence would explain that BARC is the largest and most diversified agricultural research complex in the world.
Beltsville's record of accomplishments and ongoing programs, he would say, make BARC a world leader in agriculture research. Its international reputation attracts thousands of visitors each year from the United States and abroad.
Beltsville Area research touches on all of these national topics and needs:
- Ensure high-quality safe food and other agricultural products
- Assess the nutritional needs of Americans
- Sustain a competitive agricultural economy
- Enhance the natural resource base and the environment
- Provide economic opportunities for rural citizens, communities, and society as a whole
Want to see more? Here is some recently published Beltsville research stories culled from Agricultural Research, the Department of Agriculture's science magazine:
And last, and after Dr. Spence had completed a final stop at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (largest of its kind in the United States), it was back to NAL for a final quick visit to the NAL Special Collections. What’s special? Well, there are rare books, manuscript collections, nursery and seed trade catalogs, photographs, and posters from the 1500s to the present and more. Interested in some agricultural musings by Presidents Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln? You’ve come to the right place. Materials cover a variety of agricultural subjects including horticulture, entomology, poultry sciences, natural history, and are not limited to domestic publications.
story by Jim Butcher, NARA-B