What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been!

Mark Keating's picture

It’s not too often that we discover a new masterpiece by Georgia O’Keeffe, or even an unknown soundboard recording of our favorite musicians.  Reading the journal article “Organic Agriculture in the United States: A 30 Year Retrospective” induced a similarly revelatory and exhilarating experience for me.  Co-authored by Dr. Garth Youngberg and Suzanne DeMuth, the article itself is new, yet it speaks authoritatively and insightfully about the genesis of the organic movement in America and brings into remarkable focus what we have achieved since then.

Dr. Youngberg is uniquely qualified to speak to this subject, having served as the staff director for the USDA Study Team on Organic Farming convened by Agriculture Secretary Robert Bergland in 1979. Dr. Youngberg worked in that capacity through the publication of the Team’s seminal Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming the following year and subsequently became a leading voice for organic and sustainable agriculture in Washington, DC for two decades. One great thing about the article is that it conveys Dr. Youngberg’s respectful, deliberative manner, which was so helpful in enabling our community to advance a coherent and compelling argument in the face of VERY determined resistance from industrial agriculture.

Let’s examine how one simple conclusion of the 1980 Report laid the foundation for our contemporary advocacy on behalf of organic agriculture: “The vast majority of organic farmers had not regressed to the farming practices and technologies of the 1930s, nor were these operations limited by scale.” Can you hear your own voice patiently paraphrasing these words to explain that organic farmers are indeed quite up-to-date and that organic production can be expanded to meet the world’s demand for food and fiber?

I don’t often recommend lengthy, heavily footnoted journal articles for summer reading, but serious advocates for organic and sustainable agriculture owe it to themselves to read every word of this one. Quite simply, it tells the story of what the great minds who pioneered organic agriculture, both in the field and in the hallways of Washington, DC were thinking and how their efforts ultimately made possible the opportunities we are diligently pursuing today.

Blog Category:

Social Image: