The physical shape and presentation format of The Commons stage were designed to encourage discussion among visitors and students, faculty, and staff from public and land-grant universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Focusing on these institutions’ traditions of research, learning, and community engagement, The Commons presented discussions on reinventing agriculture, building on traditions, sustainable solutions, transforming communities, lifelong learning, and the next 150 years. Visitors were able to engage with such experts as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan, Association of Public and Land-grant University President Peter McPherson, and Associate Dean of the University of California, Davis, Diana Ullman.
At The Commons visitors also heard lively presentations on such varied topics as a bed turning by the Sisters of the Cloth quilters from Indiana, discussions of campus traditions (do you know the significance of the Mississippi State University cowbell or Rainbow Warrior from the University of Hawai‘i?), and explanations of original artifacts from early agricultural pioneers housed at the Agricultural Research Service Library in Beltsville, Maryland.
The Center’s Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections recorded all sessions at The Commons; these recordings accessible to researchers and interested members of the public by appointment.