An educational film promotes Cargill’s business practices beyond company walls.
In the trading business, information has always been the key to success, serving as a competitive advantage. During the first half of its 150-year legacy, Cargill made efforts to keep its strategic intelligence confidential, believing that privacy was essential for prosperity.
But as Cargill began to gain national attention in the 1930s, its lack of publicly available information became a disadvantage, casting the company as “secretive” and feeding the perception that grain trading resembled “gambling.” It became clear that Cargill needed to communicate directly with the public, explaining the vital role it played in moving farmers’ commodities to market.
To promote the company’s successful business practices in a creative way, Cargill commissioned an educational film entitled Pillars of Plenty in 1946. Written by screenwriter R.Glenn and shot by Ray-Bell Films, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the movie showcased a number of Cargill’s operational sites, even making use of John C. Savage from its own administrative division to supervise production.
After being shown to hundreds of company employees, Pillars of Plenty reached a broader audience in the winter of 1947 when it was shown to agriculture and life science students at Iowa State University (known then as Iowa Agricultural College) in Ames, Iowa. After the premiere, Cargill training directors answered questions from the audience during an interactive session in the theater.
“We not only got what we came primarily for—an appraisal of Pillars of Plenty— but we were successful in creating a good deal of interest in and good will toward Cargill among a group from widespread agricultural communities and who, prior to the evening’s program, knew very little about the company.”— John C. Savage, Training Director, Cargill
The following year, Pillars of Plenty became one of the first films to be broadcast in the Minneapolis area on a new medium: television. From there, distribution of the motion picture continued to expand, and between 1951 and 1952, it was screened 91 times outside the walls of Cargill’s headquarters. Four years later, a sequel, Life from the Land, premiered, painting an even larger picture of Cargill’s business, which continued to generate public interest in the company.