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Northwestern University

Farm to table

A new exhibit on display at Northwestern University Library examines the intersection of government information and our nation’s ability to grow enough helpful, healthful foods to eat.

On display in the entry corridor of University Library, “Farm to Table: Government Information and Food” (January 20 – May 1) explores the myriad ways that information produced and distributed by the U.S. government has encouraged healthy eating, promoted safe food production, and supported research to help the country eat well. It draws from the reports, manuals, brochures, and posters held in the Library’s Government information Collection as well as some government documentation held by the Transportation Library.

Stretching back to the founding of the USDA, the exhibit looks at the ways that agency became a champion and cheerleader for the nation’s famers, not just by propagating new plants and seeds but by sharing knowledge that could help them maximize their production. Early reports bound in hardcover volumes show the USDA exploring the prospects of the persimmon and experimenting on simple road improvements that let mules haul more bales per trip.

Over time, federal agencies looked from the farmer to the consumer, trying to help the average American cook safely, eat healthily and shop with confidence. Recipe pamphlets and brochures even show a USDA trying to simply help home cooks plan a good night’s meal.

The exhibit demonstrates the impressive extent of government information available in the library, said Harriet Lightman, an exhibit co-curator and head of Research and Information Services. As a member of the Federal Depository Library Program, Northwestern University Library has access to a broad and deep supply of information beyond just agriculture and the food production industry. Lightman said she hopes this exhibit whets a budding researcher’s appetite to explore the collection to ask and answer more questions.

For more information contact Clare Roccaforte at or call (847) 467-5918.

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