By Brian Russell
After more than two years of planning and construction, the Ernest Jaworski Agricultural Science Gallery at Monsanto’s Chesterfield Village Research Center has opened in a ceremony featuring Jaworski, Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley, and Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant.
Jaworski, a 1998 National Medal of Technology award winner and 41-year Monsanto employee who retired in 1993, was one of the driving forces behind bringing biotechnology to Monsanto.
His impact on Monsanto cannot be overstated.
“Ernie redefined the future of Monsanto and our technology,” said Fraley, during his remarks March 5 at the dedication.
“Ernie had such an impact on me, on Monsanto and our success, that when it was time to name the visitor center and make it a major part of our tour, it was a perfect choice to name it after him,” Fraley said.
“Ernie had a keen eye for talent and a deep passion for nurturing and growing the people who worked with him,” Grant said. “Ernie nurtured that passion even after he retired from Monsanto, through his work with organizations like the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and the St. Louis Science Center.”
The renovation of the lobby from which tours of Chesterfield Village begin was first conceptualized in late 2010. More than 14,000 people visit annually.
“The tour program had been the same for about 15 years or more,” said Cindy Ludwig, tour program manager. “We recognized a need to share with our visitors the challenges facing the planet, facing farmers, facing the general population. We redesigned the tours to focus on the ‘So what? Why is this stuff important?’ And we put it all in one place and made it interactive, educational and fun.”
The goal, Ludwig said, was to provide an area to educate both farmers and those outside agriculture, and to provide a base from which tour-goers can ask questions as they visit the CV facilities.
“Farmers know most of this stuff, although they will probably learn a bit,” Ludwig said. “We’re trying to show everyone else what farmers go through and what their challenges are. For non-agriculture people, we see a lot of ‘a-ha’ moments where you can see a mindset change and perspective change.”
Only about half the people who come on the tour are farmers, Ludwig said.
The actual content of the Ernest Jaworski Agricultural Science Gallery focuses on the challenges faced by farmers.
“We started by focusing on the biggest challenges facing farmers, because of course everything we do starts with farmers,” Ludwig said. “We focused on the planet, because that’s what a farmer works. Then we focused on people, because that’s who the farmer works for. Then we focused on productivity, and how farmers can be as productive as possible. Then we focused on progress, and there we wanted to highlight what we’ve already done. And finally we focused on potential, and we discuss what we think is possible.”