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Sustainable Agriculture Policy with Ron Kroese

Sustainable Agriculture Policy with Ron Kroese

By Center for Rural Affairs

These are the stories of 45 men and women interviewed as part of an oral history archive documenting the development and evolution of public policies to advance sustainable and organic agriculture going back to the 1970s.

These are among the key leaders and advocates who played significant roles in devising and promoting the laws and government programs that continue to undergird efforts to achieve a sustainable farming and food system in the U.S.

Episodes of this limited podcast series are also available as video recordings and transcripts at www.cfra.org/SustainableAgPodcast.
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06. Al Kurki, sustainable and food systems policy activist

Sustainable Agriculture Policy with Ron KroeseApr 06, 2022

00:00
51:39
38. 1980s Farm Crisis, Roundtable #3

38. 1980s Farm Crisis, Roundtable #3

In the final episode of our limited series podcast, our host Ron Kroese moderates a discussion on the 1980s farm crisis.

This is a continuation of the roundtable discussion from the last two episodes. Each individual played an important role in the work of National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and its predecessor efforts.

During the first week, we focused on the formation, development, and accomplishments of NSAC over the past three decades, through 5 farm bills and 27 appropriation bills. Last week, we focused on successes, challenges, and took a deeper look at the organization. This week, participants also share stories about those who made an impact on sustainable agriculture policy along the way.

Discussion participants and their positions and locations at the time of the interview include:

Fred Kirschenmann: affiliated with the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, and also the Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture in New York. Lives in Ames, Iowa. Ann Robinson: Midwest regional office director for the National Center for Appropriate Technology. Located in Des Moines, Iowa. Michael Sligh: with the Rural Advancement Foundation International in Pittsboro, North Carolina. Chuck Hassebrook: Formerly with the Center for Rural Affairs in Nebraska. Mary Fund: with the Kansas Rural Center and also a certified organic farmer. Ferd Hoefner: policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in Washington, D.C. Margaret Krome: policy director for the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, Wisconsin. Frances Thicke: farmer from southeast Iowa. Owns and operates an organic dairy farm, processes milk on the farm and markets it all locally. Amy Little: policy director for the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. Duane Sand: on the staff of Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Des Moines, Iowa. Teresa Opheim: with Practical Farmers of Iowa. Located in Ames, Iowa. Duane Havorka: executive director of the Nebraska Wildlife Federation. Lives near Elmwood, Nebraska.

The roundtable was conducted on Aug. 2, 2015.

Link this episode:

National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)

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Nov 23, 202239:10
37. Successes and Challenges, Roundtable #2

37. Successes and Challenges, Roundtable #2

This week, we focus on successes, challenges, and take a deeper look at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). This is the second of three episodes of a roundtable discussion moderated by host Ron Kroese.

Next week, we’ll talk about the 1980s farm crisis and share stories about those who made an impact on sustainable agriculture policy along the way. Last week, we focused on the formation, development, and accomplishments of NSAC over the past three decades, through 5 farm bills and 27 appropriation bills.

Each individual played an important role in the work of NSAC and its predecessor efforts. Discussion participants and their positions and locations at the time of the interview include:

Fred Kirschenmann: affiliated with the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, and also the Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture in New York. Lives in Ames, Iowa. Ann Robinson: Midwest regional office director for the National Center for Appropriate Technology. Located in Des Moines, Iowa. Michael Sligh: with the Rural Advancement Foundation International in Pittsboro, North Carolina. Chuck Hassebrook: Formerly with the Center for Rural Affairs in Nebraska. Mary Fund: with the Kansas Rural Center and also a certified organic farmer. Ferd Hoefner: policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in Washington, D.C. Margaret Krome: policy director for the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, Wisconsin. Frances Thicke: farmer from southeast Iowa. Owns and operates an organic dairy farm, processes milk on the farm and markets it all locally. Amy Little: policy director for the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. Duane Sand: on the staff of Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Des Moines, Iowa. Teresa Opheim: with Practical Farmers of Iowa. Located in Ames, Iowa. Duane Havorka: executive director of the Nebraska Wildlife Federation. Lives near Elmwood, Nebraska.

The roundtable was conducted on Aug. 2, 2015.

Link this episode:

National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)

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Nov 16, 202201:10:28
36. Formation of NSAC, Roundtable #1

36. Formation of NSAC, Roundtable #1

In the final three episodes of our limited series podcast, our host Ron Kroese moderates a discussion. Each individual played an important role in the work of National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and its predecessor efforts.

This week, we focus on the formation, development, and accomplishments of NSAC over the past three decades, through 5 farm bills and 27 appropriation bills. Next week, we’ll focus on successes, challenges, and take a deeper look at the organization. In the final week, we’ll talk about the 1980s farm crisis and share stories about those who made an impact on sustainable agriculture policy along the way.

Discussion participants and their positions and locations at the time of the interview include:

Fred Kirschenmann: affiliated with the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, and also the Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture in New York. Lives in Ames, Iowa. Ann Robinson: Midwest regional office director for the National Center for Appropriate Technology. Located in Des Moines, Iowa. Michael Sligh: with the Rural Advancement Foundation International in Pittsboro, North Carolina. Chuck Hassebrook: Formerly with the Center for Rural Affairs in Nebraska. Mary Fund: with the Kansas Rural Center and also a certified organic farmer. Ferd Hoefner: policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in Washington, D.C. Margaret Krome: policy director for the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, Wisconsin. Frances Thicke: farmer from southeast Iowa. Owns and operates an organic dairy farm, processes milk on the farm and markets it all locally. Amy Little: policy director for the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. Duane Sand: on the staff of Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Des Moines, Iowa. Teresa Opheim: with Practical Farmers of Iowa. Located in Ames, Iowa. Duane Havorka: executive director of the Nebraska Wildlife Federation. Lives near Elmwood, Nebraska.

The roundtable was conducted on Aug. 2, 2015.

Links this episode:

National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)

“A Time to Choose: Summary Report on the Structure of Agriculture”

"Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming"

“The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture” by Wendell Berry

“Who Will Sit Up With the Corporate Sow?”

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Nov 09, 202201:45:40
35. Joyce Ford & Jim Riddle, long-time organic farmers

35. Joyce Ford & Jim Riddle, long-time organic farmers

Joyce E. Ford and Jim Riddle have worked tirelessly on organic agriculture policy in the state of Minnesota, nationally, and internationally.

This week, Ron Kroese talks with the long-time organic farmers and sustainable farming advocates from Winona, Minnesota, who share their numerous accomplishments, stories of colleagues they’ve worked with throughout the years, how they got started in the organic field, and what’s next for organics.

For more than 30 years, Jim has been an organic farmer, gardener, inspector, educator, policy analyst, author, and avid organic eater. Joyce started her career as an organic vegetable farmer in the 1970s.

The couple helped organize the Winona Farmers Market, where Jim was a founding chair of the Winona Farmers Market Association.

Joyce and Jim also helped start the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA). In that capacity, they co-authored the IOIA inspector curriculum manuals, and co-developed IOIA’s inspector training program and projects such as organic system plans and record keeping templates for organic certification. Joyce has trained organic inspectors for the IOIA and was the first inspector to monitor pipeline construction on organic farms, enforcing Minnesota Agricultural Impact Mitigation Plan’s Organic Appendix. She served as IOIA’s Ethics Committee chair for many years.

Jim served as chair of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Organic Advisory Task Force and was instrumental in passage of Minnesota’s landmark organic certification cost-share program, which now is a farm bill program that provides 75% reimbursement for organic certification costs nationwide.

In addition, Jim worked for the University of Minnesota as Organic Outreach Coordinator and as Organic Research Grants Coordinator for Ceres Trust. He served on the Leadership Team for eOrganic, the national Extension Community of Practice for organic agriculture and on the Citizens Board of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. He was the steering committee chair for the Organic Farmers Association when it was newly formed in 2016.

Jim is former chair of the USDA National Organic Standards Board and a leading voice for organic agriculture.

Joyce co-authored the Organic Trade Association Good Organic Retailing Practices (GORP), and the certification chapter in Organic Dairy Farming published by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES). Joyce served on the MOSES board of directors for 6 years. More recently, she served 3 years on the Steering Committee to develop a Healthy Food Charter for Minnesota and volunteered to assist Winona County in developing a county Food Charter, a policy action plan to help get healthy foods accessible.

Joyce has worked for the International Organic Accreditation Service (IOAS) and has served on its Accreditation Committee that administers accreditation for organic certification and other sustainable labels.

In 2013, Joyce and Jim were awarded EcoFarm’s Stewards of Sustainable Agriculture. They currently operate Blue Fruit Farm, a certified organic perennial fruit farm, where they grow blueberries, black currants, elderberries, aronia berries, honeyberries, and more.

The interview was conducted on Feb. 14, 2018.

Additional links this episode:

National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)

Organic Farmers Association

International Organic Inspectors Association

Winona Farmers Market

Nov 02, 202201:25:24
34. Bob Bergland, Secretary of Agriculture 1977-1981

34. Bob Bergland, Secretary of Agriculture 1977-1981

Bob Bergland’s vision and leadership led to the government’s first initiative in organic and sustainable agriculture.

This week, our host Ron talks with Bob about his several decades of public service, with the interview focusing primarily on four studies. This was recorded in 2017, one year before Bob passed away.

Robert (Bob) Bergland was born on July 22, 1928, on a farm near Roseau, Minnesota. He lived in the community until he passed away in December 2018 at the age of 90.

In 1963, he went to work for the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, first at the state level in Minnesota, and later in Washington, D.C.

In 1970, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving three terms from 1971 to 1977 as a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. In Congress, he served on the House Committee on Agriculture's subcommittees for Conservation and Credit, and Livestock, Grains, Dairy, and Poultry.

In 1977, shortly after beginning a fourth term in the House, he was appointed Secretary of Agriculture by President Jimmy Carter and served in that role from Jan. 23, 1977, to Jan. 20, 1981. During his tenure, he commissioned a major report examining the structure of American agriculture, "A Time to Choose," and the first USDA study on organic farming, "Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming."

At the end of President Carter's administration, he was named vice president and general manager of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

After retiring in 1994, he was elected by the Minnesota State Legislature to a term on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.

The interview was conducted on March 7, 2017.

Links this episode:

National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)

“A Time to Choose: Summary Report on the Structure of Agriculture”

"Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming"

“The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture” by Wendell Berry

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Oct 26, 202251:24
33. Elizabeth Henderson, trailblazing CSA farmer

33. Elizabeth Henderson, trailblazing CSA farmer

Elizabeth Henderson was raised by people concerned with peace and justice, which shaped her life path.

This week, Elizabeth sits down with our host, Ron, and talks about community-supported agriculture (CSAs), organic ag, and food justice.

She is a long-time activist for local and national policies and programs to advance socially and economically just sustainable agriculture—both in the US and abroad. She may be most known for helping shape the landmark organic food policy act of 1990, but tells us about much more.

Elizabeth farmed at Peacework Farm in Wayne County, New York, producing organically grown vegetables for the fresh market for more than 30 years.

She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), co-chairs the Policy Committee, and represents the NOFA Interstate Council on the Board of the Agricultural Justice Project.

For 20 years, from 1993 to 2013, she chaired the Agricultural Development Board in Wayne County and took an active role in creating the Farming and Farmland Protection Plan for the county.

In 2001, the organic industry honored her with one of the first “Spirit of Organic” awards, in 2007, Abundance Co-op honored her with the “Cooperating for Communities” award, and in 2009, NOFA-NY honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award and then a Golden Carrot in 2013. In 2014, Eco-Farm presented her with their Advocate of Social Justice Award, the “Justie.”

Her writings on organic agriculture appear in The Natural Farmer and other publications, she is the lead author of Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture (Chelsea Green, 2007), with a Spanish language e-book edition in 2017, and co-authored Whole Farm Planning: Ecological Imperatives, Personal Values and Economics with farmer Karl North (2004).

She also wrote A Food Book for a Sustainable Harvest for the members of Peacework Organic Community Supported Agriculture (aka GVOCSA) in its 29th year in 2017.

The interview was conducted on Dec. 14, 2017.

Links this episode:

National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)

Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture

Whole Farm Planning: Ecological Imperatives, Personal Values and Economics

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Oct 19, 202257:06
32. Mark Winne, equitable and sustainable food systems advocate

32. Mark Winne, equitable and sustainable food systems advocate

Mark Winne is a renowned lifelong advocate for policies to advance equitable and sustainable food systems in the U.S. and throughout the planet.

On this week’s episode, Mark speaks with host Ron Kroese about food policy councils, farmers markets, food banks, farm to school, youth nutrition, and farmland preservation.

Mark grew up in the Garden State, watching gardens disappear, and became sensitive to food production and commercial ag production. He carried that forward, along with a desire to “do something about hunger.”

From 1979 to 2003, Mark Winne was the executive director of the Hartford Food System, a Connecticut nonprofit food organization. Under his direction, the organization started one of the first farmers markets in the country. They also studied food security and food in relation to agriculture.

He is the co-founder of the Community Food Security Coalition where he also worked as the Food Policy Council Program Director from 2005 to 2012.

He was a Kellogg Foundation Food and Society Fellow, a Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Visiting Scholar, and a member of the U.S. Delegation to the 2000 Rome Conference on Food Security.

As a writer on food issues, Mark's work has appeared in the Washington Post, The Nation, Sierra, Orion, and Yes!, to name a few.

Mark is the author of Food Town, USA (Island Press, 2019), Stand Together or Starve Alone (Praeger Press 2018), Closing the Food Gap (Beacon Press 2008), and Food Rebels, Guerilla Gardeners, and Smart Cookin’ Mamas (Beacon Press, 2010).

Through his own firm, Mark Winne Associates, Mark speaks, trains, and writes on topics related to community food systems, food policy, and food security.

He also serves as Senior Advisor to the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.

The interview was conducted on Feb. 21, 2017.

Links this episode:

“Doing Food Policy Councils Right: A Guide to Development and Action”

Mark’s website

National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)

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Oct 12, 202201:11:07
31: Bob Scowcroft & Mark Lipson, organic champions

31: Bob Scowcroft & Mark Lipson, organic champions

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Bob Scowcroft’s story continues this week, and he is joined by Mark Lipson as well as host Ron Kroese.

Mark begins the conversation at the end of 1987, when Bob joined California Certified Organic Farmers as executive director. About 18 months into Bob’s tenure, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit the Santa Cruz area (right at the same time Mark set up a new computer and inserted a floppy disk), forcing the organization to relocate offices.

Then, both Mark and Bob were thrust into the state and national spotlight as two organic bills made their way through legislature in California and in Washington. They talk about teaming up with partners across the country on landmark legislation, and becoming spokespeople with the media on all things organic.

Bob chats about starting the Organic Farming Research Foundation, which Mark joins later, and what that meant to the organic industry.

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About Bob: He has successfully transitioned from a "retirement" state of mind into a more active composition of consultant, volunteer, and advocacy oriented activities. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Nell Newman Foundation and sits on 4 nonprofit advisory boards.

He previously served as executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation, based in Santa Cruz, California. It was co-founded by Bob and two certified organic farmers in 1990. In the nearly 20 years Bob directed OFRF, it awarded $2.4+ million in support of 320+ organic research and education projects. The results of which were shared with 15,000+ organic farmers and ranchers.

During Bob's tenure, OFRF had an active policy, research, and publishing program, and it disseminated information on all sectors of the organic product industry. Bob averaged 200 media interviews and over 15 conference presentations on organic annually.

He sat on 5 non-governmental organizations advisory boards. He resigned and retired from OFRF in 2010.

Prior to working for OFRF, he was the first full-time executive director of California Certified Organic Farmers (1987-1992); before that he served in the Friends of the Earth's San Francisco office as their national organizer with a primary focus on pesticide reduction and organic farming advocacy (1979-1985).

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About Mark: Mark is a 30-year pioneer and influential leader in the organic farming and food community in California and nationally. In 2016, he received the "Champion of Sustainable Agriculture Award" from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

He served a 4-year term as the Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Policy Advisor in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, from 2010 to 2014. At the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he led the department-wide Organic Working Group and co-led the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Task Force.

Since 1983, he has been a member in Molino Creek Farm, a cooperative multi-family organic farming community near Davenport, California, and the original home of the famed, dry-farmed tomatoes.

Mark currently serves as Director of Policy and Regulatory Engagement at the Heartland Health Research Alliance. He is a staff affiliate for Organic Agriculture Policy at the University of California at Santa Cruz, affiliated with the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

The interview was conducted on Dec. 15, 2016.

Liked this show? SUBSCRIBE to this podcast on Spotify, Audible, Apple, Google, and more. Catch past episodes, a transcript, and the video at http://www.cfra.org/SustainableAgPodcast and https://misa.umn.edu/publications/national-sustainable-agriculture-oral-history-archive

Oct 05, 202201:12:06
30: Bob Scowcroft, co-founder of Organic Farming Research Foundation

30: Bob Scowcroft, co-founder of Organic Farming Research Foundation

If you thought you heard sustainable ag history stories, make sure you listen to this one.

In this week’s episode, Bob Scowcroft talks with our host Ron Kroese about the beginning of his sustainable agriculture career. Then, next week, Bob will be joined by Mark Lipson to continue the conversation.

Bob begins by telling us about his early golf career. Then, while in college he was bit by the travel bug—on one trip, he and several others traveled in a VW van through Canada to California for a Grateful Dead concert—they were a day late and missed the show. He took trips to Africa, Alaska, and he ultimately worked in California, D.C., Alaska, and back to California.

He talks about the famous organic report that was smuggled out of the USDA by Garth Youngberg and others. He talks about his fight against pesticides. Then, his campaign for organics and the battles against not-so-honest producers.

But, that is not all. Bob circles back to the Grateful Dead at the end of this episode. Tune in to hear more. Then, make sure you download next week’s podcast for the rest of the story.

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About Bob Scowcroft: He has successfully transitioned from a "retirement" state of mind into a more active composition of consultant, volunteer, and advocacy oriented activities. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Nell Newman Foundation and sits on four nonprofit advisory boards.

He previously served as Executive Director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation, a national organization, based in Santa Cruz, California. It was co-founded by Bob and two certified organic farmers in 1990. In the nearly 20 years Bob directed OFRF, it awarded over $2,400,000 in support of over 320 organic research and education projects. The results of which were shared with over 15,000 organic farmers and ranchers throughout North America.

During Bob's tenure, OFRF had an active policy, research, and publishing program, and it disseminated information on all sectors of the organic product industry to the public at large. Bob averaged 200 media interviews and over 15 conference presentations on all subjects "organic" annually.

He sat on five non-governmental organizations (NGO) advisory boards. He resigned and retired from OFRF at the end of 2010.

Prior to working for OFRF, he was the first full time Executive Director of California Certified Organic Farmers (1987-1992); before that he served in the Friends of the Earth's San Francisco office as their national organizer with a primary focus on pesticide reduction and organic farming advocacy (1979-1985).

The interview was conducted on Dec. 15, 2016.

Links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
Organic Farming Research Foundation
California Certified Organic Farmers
Friends of the Earth

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Sep 28, 202201:14:07
29. Jill Auburn, former National Program Leader at USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture

29. Jill Auburn, former National Program Leader at USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Jill Shore Auburn was a National Program Leader at the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture from January 1998 until her retirement in April 2017, managing grant programs for research and extension on sustainable agriculture, local/regional food systems, rural community development, and beginning farmers and ranchers.

In this week’s episode, she and our host Ron Kroese chat about how she got into this work and she walks us through ~30 years of working in sustainable ag. She talks about the origin and structure of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program; a special project on organic ag that she worked on at USDA; mentions her work on the Know your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative; and more.

From 2009 to 2013, she spent four years on detail to the USDA Office of the Chief Scientist, where she was Acting Director for two years, and also Senior Advisor for agricultural systems and sustainability.

Prior to that detail she spent 10 years directing the SARE grant program for the USDA agency that is now the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Before joining USDA, she was associate director of the University of California’s statewide Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, where she developed the information program including one of the first university web sites on sustainable agriculture.

While at UC SAREP she led the national team that developed the information network for the SARE program (now SARE Outreach) and co-led the Professional Development Program of Western SARE.

Her academic background is in agricultural systems analysis and ecology, with a Ph.D. from the University of California at Davis and M.A. and B.A. from Miami University.

The interview was conducted on October 11, 2017.

Links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)
National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI)
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)

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Sep 21, 202201:04:27
28. Tom Harkin, small farm supporter, with Ferd Hoefner

28. Tom Harkin, small farm supporter, with Ferd Hoefner

The year was 2002. The idea was to get fresh fruit and vegetables in schools for snacks. Sen. Tom Harkin was chair of the Ag Committee during the farm bill, and pushed through a pilot program to 100 rural schools in four states.

“In all these years, with all these supports of programs, we never supported fruits and vegetables. They were never part of the farm bill.”

That is just one of Sen. Harkin’s stories in this week’s episode. He talks with our host Ron Kroese and guest Ferd Hoefner about his time working as a lawmaker in Washington, D.C. for 41 years.

In 1974, Tom Harkin was elected to Congress from Iowa's 5th Congressional District. His energetic, person-to-person campaign carried the day against an incumbent in a long- standing Republican district.

In 1984, after serving 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Sen. Harkin challenged an incumbent senator and won. Iowans returned him to the Senate in 1990, 1996, and again in 2002. In November 2008, he made history by becoming the first Iowa Democrat to win a fifth term in the U.S. Senate. He retired from the U.S. Senate in January 2015.

Throughout his lengthy tenure, Sen. Harkin served on the House and Senate Agriculture Committees and was a stalwart champion for policies and programs benefiting family-sized farms, conservation, and sustainable agriculture.

As a young senator, Tom was tapped by Sen. Ted Kennedy to craft legislation to protect the civil rights of millions of Americans with physical and mental disabilities. He knew firsthand about the challenges facing people with disabilities from his late brother, Frank, who was deaf from an early age. What emerged from that process would later become his signature legislative achievement—The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA has become known as the "Emancipation Proclamation for people with disabilities." The legislation changed the landscape of America by requiring buildings and transportation to be wheelchair accessible, and to provide workplace accommodations for people with disabilities.

To preserve the intent of the ADA after several court rulings weakened its standards, Sen. Harkin and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the ADA Amendments bill to ensure continuing protections from discrimination for all Americans with disabilities. It was signed into law in September 2008. In September 2009, Sen. Harkin became chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Tom Harkin was born in Cumming, Iowa (pop. 150), on Nov. 19, 1939, the son of an Iowa coal miner father and a Slovenian immigrant mother. To this day, he still lives in the house in Cumming where he was born. In 1968, Tom married Ruth Raduenz, the daughter of a farmer and a school teacher from Minnesota. Tom and Ruth have two daughters, Amy and Jenny, and three grandchildren.

The interview was conducted on Oct. 11, 2017.

Links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)

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Sep 14, 202201:19:35
27. Margaret Krome, building the next generation of sustainable ag leaders

27. Margaret Krome, building the next generation of sustainable ag leaders

Margaret Krome has spent 30 years developing state and local programs and policies supporting environmentally sound, profitable, and socially responsible agriculture.

On this week’s episode, Ron talks with Margaret about her life's work and the experiences that shaped her.

Her interest in ag began in childhood, as the grandchild of a Florida avocado and citrus farmer. She served in agroforestry in the Peace Corps in Cameroon. She then began graduate school and worked at the Wisconsin Rural Development Center during the 1980s farm crisis.

In 1995, Margaret joined the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, Wisconsin, where she serves as policy director today.

For years, she led the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's annual national grassroots campaign to fund federal programs prioritized each year by NSAC's member groups; she continues to assist NSAC with this campaign.

ln Wisconsin, Margaret has been instrumental in helping to create several significant programs, including the UW-Madison center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, the Pesticide Use and Risk Reduction program, the state's Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program, the state's farm to School program, and others.

She conducts workshops and webinars nationwide on grant writing, using federal programs to support sustainable agriculture, and on new USDA crop insurance programs supporting diversified farms.

Margaret has invested a dozen years in building the next generation of sustainable agriculture leaders, including more leaders of color.

The interview was conducted on Feb. 16, 2016.

Links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute

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Sep 07, 202201:41:36
26. Ron & Maria Rosman, Iowa organic farmers

26. Ron & Maria Rosman, Iowa organic farmers

Not satisfied with conventional farming practices, Ron Rosmann began to explore sustainable agricultural methods in the 1980s.

This week, our host Ron Kroese talks with Ron and Maria Vakulskas Rosmann who, along with their sons, are the owners and operators of Rosmann Family Farms, located four miles northwest of Harlan, Iowa. Ron has farmed this land where he was raised since receiving his biology degree from Iowa State University (ISU) in 1973.

Ron's goals when building the farm focused on building up the soil and not just the plant, using alternative tillage methods, and improving the genetics in the livestock. Ron’s late father had already taught him the value of crop rotations and diversity. His interest in sustainable agriculture helped Ron team up with like-minded individuals who formed Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Today, Rosmann Family Farms is 700 acres of corn, oats, soybeans, popcorn, small grains, pasture, and hay. It is certified organic by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The cow-calf operation (100 cows – Red Angus) is an important part of the organic picture. They also have a 60-sow farrow-to-finish hog operation and raise organic chickens. The Rosmanns strongly support the use of rotational grazing practices. Over the past 30 years, their farm has conducted 40 randomized/replicated research plots in cooperation with PFI.

Ron and Maria have dedicated much of their efforts to the preservation of the small and medium-sized family farm. Over the years, Ron has been asked to address many audiences including university groups, members of Congress, business meetings and organizations. The family has hosted guests from all around the U.S. and six continents.

Ron has written and published many articles and essays on these issues. He has served as a board member and president of the Organic Farming Research Foundation and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.

Maria Vakulskas Rosmann was raised in Sioux City and has a journalism degree from Creighton University. She has worked as a journalist and in television, and for Creighton University. She served as development director for Shelby County Catholic Schools. These days her efforts focus on the marketing of their beef, pork, and popcorn through their on-farm store, Farm Sweet Farm, and working with Ron.

They are the parents of three adult sons, David, Daniel, and Mark. All are graduates of Iowa State University with various degrees involving agriculture. David and Daniel joined in the farming operation after graduation. Mark works for the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service in Washington, DC.

The interview was conducted on Jan. 29, 2018.

Links this episode:
Rosmann Family Farms
Farm Sweet Farm
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
Center for Rural Affairs
Practical Farmers of Iowa

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Aug 31, 202201:24:47
25. Don Bustos, farming with the same rituals and traditions as his ancestors

25. Don Bustos, farming with the same rituals and traditions as his ancestors

“I like to tell people we still farm the same land our ancestors farmed 400 years ago, and we still use the same rituals and we still use the same tradition. We incorporate a little new technology that allows us to be economically viable.” -Don Bustos

This week, our host Ron Kroese sits down with Don on his farm in the village of Santa Cruz in northern New Mexico on land his family has owned for more than three centuries. Don talks about traditions, the importance of leaving the land for the next generations, and how he became a sustainable ag leader.

In the 1970s, Don began converting his farm from 100 acres of row crops to 3.5 acres of year-round organic production with more than 70 varieties of fruits and vegetables. For more than 20 years, he has used solar energy for year-round production, installing his first panels with the help of a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant.

Over the past three decades, he has been involved in efforts to improve state and federal public policies to advance sustainable and organic farming. For many years he served as director of the American Friends Service Committee's New Mexico program and was a co-founder of the National Immigrant Farming Initiative.

In 2015, he was one of five people to receive the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award, which recognizes "who influence how, why and what we eat."

The interview was conducted on Feb. 21, 2017.

Additional links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Center for Rural Affairs

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Aug 24, 202251:44
24. Michael Sligh, veteran organic farming advocate

24. Michael Sligh, veteran organic farming advocate

“I don’t believe we can get to the shores of sustainability with environmental stewardship alone. We must marry justice into this conversation. And until we do, we really won’t get where we all believe we desperately need to get to.” -Michael Sligh

This week, Ron has a conversation with Michael about promotion of agro-biodiversity, organic, competitive markets, food justice, and more.

At the time of this interview, Michael was a program director for Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA). He managed the above plus policy, research, and education regarding agricultural best practices, fair trade and other value-added food labeling, policy, and marketing issues. He also helped coordinate the Seeds and Breeds Coalition for the 21st Century aimed at reinvigorating public cultivars to meet the challenges of climate change and organic/sustainable market demands.

Michael has been involved in domestic and international agricultural policy development, organizing, food labeling, standards, certification and accreditation work for over 35 years including: founding chair of the USDA/ National Organic Standards Board; a founder of Domestic Fair Trade Association, National Organic Coalition, and Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group; founding members of National Family Farm Coalition and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition; board member of the International Organic Accreditation Service; former NGO delegate to UN Codex/FAO/WHO Food Labeling Commission and WTO; founding partner of Agricultural Justice Project, which has developed domestic fair trade standards for North America.

He is a part-time family farmer and a trained anthropologist who lives, farms, and works from North Carolina.

The interview was conducted on Dec. 4, 2017.

Additional links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
“The New Deal’s Impacts on Sharecropping and Tenant Farming in the US South: A History”

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Aug 10, 202259:36
23. Shirley Sherrod, veteran advocate for the civil rights of farmers of color and disadvantaged rural people in the southern U.S.

23. Shirley Sherrod, veteran advocate for the civil rights of farmers of color and disadvantaged rural people in the southern U.S.

Shirley Sherrod has been advocating for civil rights since 1965.

This week, our host Ron gets help from Michael Sligh, longtime friend and fellow farm advocate, in interviewing Shirley about discrimination in ag.

The second part of this episode features Shirley at the 2017 Domestic Fair Trade Conference. She discusses 52 years of work, including black land loss, the connection between civil rights and food justice, the importance of racial justice in creating fair and sustainable agricultural supply chains, and more.

Shirley was born in Baker County, Georgia, in 1947 to Grace and Hosea (Hosie) Miller. Her father was murdered by a white farmer reportedly over a livestock dispute. No charges were ever returned against the shooter by an all-white grand jury. The tragic murder of her father when she was 17 years old had a profound impact on her life and led to her decision to stay in the south to work for change.

She attended Fort Valley State College then transferred to Albany State College. There she studied sociology while working for civil rights with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). During this time, she married Reverend Charles Sherrod, one of the founding members of SNCC and the leader of SNCC’s work in southwest Georgia.

During the 1960s, Shirley and her husband helped form New Communities, Inc. The organization acquired 6,000 acres of land and became the first community land trust in the U.S. The project encountered difficulties in the opposition of area white farmers who accused participants of being communists, and also from Georgia’s segregationist governor, Lester Maddow, who prevented the federal government’s development funds from entering the state. A drought in the 1970s, fertilizer suppliers selling inferior products to the organization, and the inability to get timely government loans led to the project’s ultimate demise.

Shirley went on to work for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in 1985 to help black farmers keep their land.

In July 2010, she was forced to resign her position at USDA after conservative blogger, Andrew Breitbart, posted video excerpts of an address she gave at a NAACP event. According to Breitbart, her comments showed how a federally appointed executive racially discriminated against a white farmer. The video set off a controversy and criticism of Shirley. Subsequent events showed the posted video was taken out of context and part of broader comments that conveyed a completely different meaning. The NAACP apologized for critical comments and her boss at USDA also apologized while offering her another job, which she later declined.

The interview was conducted on Dec. 15, 2017.

Links this episode:

National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link) Pigford v. Glickman “Arc of Justice: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of a Beloved Community” film Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural Members and Allies Statements and Perspectives on the Resignation of Shirley Sherrod, July 20, 2010 Charles Sherrod Community Development Corporation

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Aug 03, 202201:39:32
22. Garth Youngberg, leader in alternative agriculture

22. Garth Youngberg, leader in alternative agriculture

Garth Youngberg’s work has had a large impact on the agricultural industry, leading farmers to reexamine conventional agricultural practices and explore alternative approaches.

This week, Ron interviews Garth, the founder and director of the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture located in Greenbelt, Maryland. He directed the Institute since its formation in 1983. The Institute joined Winrock International in 2000.

He received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Western Illinois University, and a Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois (1971) in political science, with an emphasis in agriculture policy and administration.

Garth began his career in education, which included teaching and research positions at Iowa State University and Southwest Missouri State University.

In 1979, he joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Science and Education Administration, where he served from 1980-82 as USDA's Organic Farming Coordinator.

The author of numerous publications on agricultural policy, he co-authored the landmark 1980 USDA study, "Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming." He was editor of the Wallace Institute's peer-reviewed American Journal of Alternative Agriculture from its inception in 1985 until 2000.

In 1988, Dr. Youngberg received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Award, the first awarded in agriculture. He retired in 2003.

In 2013, Garth co-authored (with Suzanne DeMuth) "Organic Agriculture in the United States: A 30-Year Retrospective," in Renewable Agriculture & Food Systems.

The interview was conducted on Dec. 6, 2016.

Additional links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
Practical Farmers of Iowa
“A Time to Choose: Summary Report on the Structure of Agriculture,” 1981
Garth’s Wikipedia Page
Garth in the USDA National Agricultural Library

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Jul 27, 202201:15:32
21. Denny Caneff, healthy rivers advocate

21. Denny Caneff, healthy rivers advocate

“If you’re going to worry about the quality of the water in rivers, you have to pay attention to what’s going on with agriculture.” -Denny Caneff

In this week’s episode, our host Ron talks with Denny about his history with sustainable ag. Denny has worked in the realm of land and water conservation for nearly 30 years.

He encountered the controversy around the early sustainable agriculture movement in the mid 1980s in graduate school in Wisconsin. His thesis looked at "technology resistance" among dairy farmers refusing to use purchased inputs, a precursor to organic farming. An academic advisor dismissed sustainable agriculture (and his thesis) as "conceptually fuzzy."

From 1988 to 1995, Denny was executive director of a sustainable agriculture/family farm advocacy organization in Wisconsin, where he joined other sustainable agriculture and family farm advocacy groups around the Midwest to challenge land grant university research agendas and to advocate for a land- and farmer-friendlier federal farm bill.

Denny served as executive director of the River Alliance of Wisconsin from 2003 until 2016.

He then served as executive director of the Superior Hiking Trail Association in northern Minnesota for three years. During his time, he created the Trail Renewal Program, a plan for responsible, sustainable management of the trail as a resource, with concern for the environmental impact that increased use and lagging maintenance have caused.

The interview was conducted on Aug. 17, 2015.

Links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
River Alliance of Wisconsin
Superior Hiking Trail Association

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Jul 20, 202231:55
20. Kathleen Merrigan, former deputy secretary of USDA

20. Kathleen Merrigan, former deputy secretary of USDA

Kathleen Merrigan authored the law establishing standards for organic food and the federal definition of sustainable agriculture.

On this week’s episode, she talks with Ron about her life’s work, including her time in USDA, where she led the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to support local food systems, and was a key architect of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign.

In 2010, Kathleen was celebrated by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2010.

Currently, she serves as the Kelly and Brian Swette Professor in the School of Sustainability and executive director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University. Before that, she was the Executive Director of Sustainability at the George Washington University.

From 2009 to 2013, Kathleen was deputy secretary and COO of the United States Department of Agriculture. And, was the first woman to chair the Ministerial Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Prior to USDA, she was a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Administrator of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, and served on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

Kathleen is a board member of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, and a Trustee of CIFOR and ICRAF. She is a partner in Astanor Ventures and an advisor to S2G Ventures, two firms investing in ag-tech innovation. Merrigan holds a PhD in Public Policy and Environmental Planning from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MPA from University of Texas at Austin, and BA from Williams College.

The interview was conducted on Feb. 10, 2016.

Additional links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
U.S. Department of Agriculture

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Jul 13, 202201:08:01
19. George Boody, past director of Land Stewardship Project

19. George Boody, past director of Land Stewardship Project

“We want to get continuous living cover, or perennial agriculture, more animals on the land. We have to really get that happening with farmers as much as possible. So that when the change in policy comes, they’re ready for it. They’re receptive to it, they’re ready to go, rather than fighting it.” -George Boody

This week, George talks with our host, Ron Kroese, about taking care of the land through conservation, diversifying the landscape, and water quality. Additionally, the conversation touches on organic agriculture, crop insurance reform, rotational grazing, and more.

George recently retired as Science and Special Projects Lead of the Land Stewardship Project, a nonprofit with headquarters in Minneapolis. Before 2016, he was the Executive Director for 23 years of the Land Stewardship Project.

While serving as Executive Director, George led the Land Stewardship Project through significant expansion of its work into three main areas: policy and organizing, beginning farmer training and community based food systems. The organization gained national attention for its work on sustainable agriculture and family farm issues during George’s tenure.

Prior to the Land Stewardship Project, George was an early leader in the organic farming movement. He has a master's of science degree in horticulture and human nutrition and a bachelor of science degree in biology from the University of Minnesota. George has deep roots in rural Minnesota, where his mother grew up on a farm and his father was a doctor.

The interview was conducted on Dec. 3, 2015.

Links this episode:

National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
Land Stewardship Project

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Jul 06, 202255:23
18. Ken Cook, president and co-founder of the Environmental Working Group

18. Ken Cook, president and co-founder of the Environmental Working Group

Ken Cook was a principal architect of landmark provisions of the 1985 farm bill that for the first time shifted U.S. farm policy from a narrow focus on maximum crop production to conservation of land, water, wetlands, and wildlife. The legislation was widely regarded as the most important environmental farm policy reform in decades.

He went on to co-found the Environmental Working Group, which created an online database of federal farm subsidy payments and recipients that has generated thousands of stories about the nation’s broken farm policies.

This week, Ken talks with our host Ron Kroese about the first versions of the farm subsidy payment database as well as his role in Washington, D.C. throughout the years.

Ken and the Environmental Working Group played a similarly prominent role during the crafting of the 2008 and 2014 farm bills, fighting successfully to add conservation requirements on farms that benefit from federally subsidized crop insurance.

Ken continues to serve as president of the Environmental Working Group and is widely recognized as one of the environmental community's most prominent and influential critics of industrial agriculture, U.S. food and farm policy, and the nation's broken approach to protecting families and children from toxic substances.

Under his leadership, the Environmental Working Group has pioneered the use of digital technologies to empower American families with easy-to-use, data-driven tools to help reduce their exposure to potentially harmful ingredients in foods, drinking water, cosmetics, and other household products.

Ken is the founding chairman and board member of Food Policy Action, an organization dedicated to promoting food policy that is protective of the environment, farmers, and consumers through education and the publication of the National Food Policy Scorecard.

The interview was conducted on Dec. 16, 2016.

Links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
Environmental Working Group
EWG’s Farm Subsidy Database

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Jun 29, 202201:34:47
17. Lorette Picciano, executive director of Rural Coalition

17. Lorette Picciano, executive director of Rural Coalition

Lorette Picciano has coordinated unified efforts in 7 farm bill debates to secure more than 40 sections of policy to assure equal access to USDA programs for farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers.

On this week’s episode, Lorette talks with Ron about these efforts which started in 1980 in Washington, D.C. She started with several interfaith organizations on equity in food and farm policy, food security and fair trade issues, and continues this connection today as a board member with several faith and solidarity economy networks.

Since 1992, Lorette served as executive director of the Rural Coalition, an alliance of more than 60 culturally diverse community based organizations representing small producers and farmworkers in the U.S. and Mexico.

She works with Rural Coalition’s diverse board and members to promote just and sustainable development in rural areas, particularly in civil rights in agriculture. She has also worked with Rural Coalition member communities to advance food sovereignty with sister communities in North America and globally as a member of the international farmers' movement, La Via Campesina.

Her education includes a BS in Agriculture from Cornell University, and an M. Ed. from the University of Hawaii, where she was a participant in the Food Institute of the East-West Center and did fieldwork in the rural Philippines.

The interview was conducted on Feb. 11, 2016.

Links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
Rural Coalition

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Jun 22, 202201:00:46
16. Bob Gray, advocate for sustainable agriculture and conservation

16. Bob Gray, advocate for sustainable agriculture and conservation

Bob Gray has always had a deep interest in improving the soil, protecting the land, and “doing things that would make sure that you were not harming it.” He grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York, which set the stage for working in agriculture for the rest of his life.

This week, Bob talks with Ron about his legislative activities in Washington, D.C. starting in 1975, which cover a broad range of agriculture policy issues, federal farm programs, environmental regulations, conservation issues, energy development, and a host of matters affecting the agricultural sector.

As a managing partner in the consulting firm of Gray & Oscar, LLC, he has also worked to expand technology transfer of information across the country and to provide communications with consumers on the importance agriculture plays in the U.S. economy.

His background includes serving as a staff consultant to the U.S. House Agriculture Committee and as Chief of Staff to a Member of Congress. In addition, Bob was Director of Policy Development for a private nonprofit conservation organization.

He has received a number of awards for his work, including the Gulf Oil Conservation Award, the National Association of Counties Distinguished Public Service Award, and the Natural Resources Council of America Legislative Achievement Award.

The interview was conducted on Feb. 11, 2016.

Links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
National Center for Appropriate Technology
ATTRA
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Center for Rural Affairs
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Jun 15, 202249:56
15. Mark Schultz, rural policy organizer

15. Mark Schultz, rural policy organizer

Mark Schultz felt he had to do something more with people whose voices weren’t being heard. So, he dedicated his career to farm and rural policy and organizing.

On this week’s podcast, Mark talks with Ron about his involvement in the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, crop insurance reform, and more.

He discusses his time at the Land Stewardship Program (LSP), a membership organization of more than 4,000 families, primarily in the rural Upper Midwest. In March 2020, he retired as executive director of LSP, after founding the organization’s nationally renowned Policy and Organizing program, as well as LSP’s Membership and Individual Giving Program, leading to continuous growth in LSP’s membership and individual giving over the past 11 years.

Mark has led numerous successful campaigns in farm and rural policy and organizing, while building LSP. Since 2005, much of his work in Minnesota has focused on working with other basebuilding organizations to align progressive power across the state in a new movement for economic, racial, and social justice, environmental stewardship, and prosperous communities.

The interview was conducted on Sept. 21, 2015.

Links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
Land Stewardship Project

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Jun 08, 202201:29:45
14. Bob Warrick, farmer and conservationist

14. Bob Warrick, farmer and conservationist

Born in 1935 during the Great Depression in Meadow Grove, Nebraska, Robert (Bob) Warrick still owns the farm where he grew up.

On this week’s podcast, he talks with Ron about farm life beginning in the 1930s, when they still worked the land with horses; through the 1950s when the government subsidized, then backed out of the corn market; then about his involvement in advocating for sustainable agriculture policies in Nebraska and Washington, D.C.

After attending the University of Nebraska, serving in the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1960, and working for the U.S. Forest Service for a year, he began farming full-time in 1961 near Meadow Grove. He raised hogs, cattle, grass, and row crops until retiring in 2003.

Locally, Bob was elected to the Madison County, Nebraska, Soil & Water Conservation Committee in 1964, serving until 1973. From 1974 to 1975 he served as Natural Resource Director for the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resource District. From 1980 to 2002, he was a Madison County Planning Commission member, including several years as its chairman.

A lifelong environmentalist and hunter, Bob became a Sierra Club member in 1973 and served as Sierra Club's Agriculture Chair from 1975 to 1985. In that role, he helped devise and promote policies to advance sustainable culture for the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and its founding member, the Center for Rural Affairs.

He became a board member of the Center for Rural Affairs in 1976, and still serves as a director emeritus today.

He and his wife, Gudrun, married in 1963. They moved after retirement to Oceanside, California, to be close to their grandchildren, where they currently reside. In his retirement, Bob continues to be an active outdoorsman and skier, taking advantage of the Sodbuster Act each fall when he goes hunting for ducks in South Dakota.

Since 2003, he has volunteered as a docent and gardener at the nearby Santa Margareta Y Las Flores Rancho & Veterans Memorial Garden on the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base.

The interview was conducted on Feb. 16, 2017.

Links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
Center for Rural Affairs
Sierra Club
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Jun 01, 202256:46
13. Dana Jackson & Loni Kemp, sustainable ag leaders

13. Dana Jackson & Loni Kemp, sustainable ag leaders

Dana Jackson and Loni Kemp are women powerhouses in the sustainable ag industry. On this week’s podcast, they talk with Ron about rural issues in general, water quality, soil health, climate, and food security.

Dana and Loni both started their careers in the 1970s, and discuss the evolution of sustainable ag in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00s.

Loni was a senior policy analyst at the Minnesota Project from 1979 to 2008, directing the agriculture and water program. She was a founding board member of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the Midwest Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, now merged into the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

From 2002-2004, Loni was awarded a Food and Society Policy Fellowship from the Kellogg Foundation. She served as a board member of the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

Loni created Kemp Consulting, an independent consulting firm that advises on agriculture, renewable energy, conservation and climate change. Clients have included National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Land Stewardship Project, McKnight Foundation, Energy Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, and the Pew Charitable Trusts, among others.

Dana was employed in sustainable agriculture from 1976 until 2012. She co-founded The Land Institute in 1976 and served as co-director, then director of education until 1993.

For one year, she was a program associate for The Minnesota Food Association, then was hired to be co-director of the Land Stewardship Project. After 12 years, she changed roles to work in Land Stewardship Project's Food Systems program, creating and coordinating the St. Croix Valley Buy Fresh Buy Local Chapter.

Dana and her daughter Dr. Laura Jackson co-edited The Farm as Natural Habitat: Reconnecting Food Systems and Ecosystems. Dana served on the boards of directors of five sustainable agriculture organizations (including the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture), and still remains active in the field as an advisor to the Wild Farm Alliance, Our Community Food Projects, and the Pollinator Friendly Alliance.

Dana’s honors include a Pew Scholar's Award in Conservation and the Environment in 1990, designation as "Sustainable Woman of the Year" in 2007 by the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, and an award from the Rural Sociological Society in 2012.

The interview was conducted on Oct. 21, 2015.

Links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
“The Farm as Natural Habitat: Reconnecting Food Systems and Ecosystems”
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Land Stewardship Project
The Land Institute
Women, Food and Agriculture Network

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May 25, 202201:35:41
12. Sister Mary Tacheny, devoted to rural relationships and the greater Earth

12. Sister Mary Tacheny, devoted to rural relationships and the greater Earth

During the farm crisis of the 1980s, Sister Mary Tacheny returned to her farming roots, helping the church respond during a difficult time. She knew where she was needed, working with rural leaders on policy as well as assisting farmers directly.

This week, Sister Mary tells Ron about growing up on a small dairy farm southeast of Mankato, Minnesota, where she and her siblings went with her parents each Sunday to check the fields. She talks about her years working with farmers and rural leaders as well as creating the Center for Earth Spirituality.

Sister Mary is a School Sister of Notre Dame of the Mankato, Minnesota, campus of the Central Pacific Province. Her family continues to farm the land where she grew up.

After 28 years as a secondary teacher and administrator, Sister Mary became the educational consultant to the Minnesota Catholic Bishops and their Rural Life Directors. Her task was to help the church respond to the crisis farmers were experiencing in the early ‘80s when the banks and other lending institutions were foreclosing on mortgages and farmers were losing their farms. It was a time to unite people and support one another, to work toward solutions together. This became sister's passion for the next 25 years.

In 1996, Sister Mary helped establish the Center for Earth Spirituality and Rural Ministry, now the Living Earth Center, to bring together people who were passionate about ecological solidarity and enhancing right relationships between each other, the local community, and the greater Earth. Starting first as a small community garden and advocacy group, Living Earth Center grew to be a network of gardeners, volunteers, and advocates.

Sister Mary celebrated 75 years of service as a School Sister in 2020. At that time, she continued to be an active member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame Earth Committee championing the Living Earth Center.

The interview was conducted on Nov. 24, 2015.

Links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
Living Earth Center (formerly Center for Earth Spirituality and Rural Ministry)
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May 18, 202259:13
11. Roger Blobaum, organic farming & food policy advocate

11. Roger Blobaum, organic farming & food policy advocate

Roger Blobaum worked on a title for the 1965 farm bill, more than 50 years ago. Then, a 1971 visit to a farm near Grinnell, Iowa, changed his life. After seeing the black soil and healthy earthworms, he decided to make organic farming his focus and life’s work.

This week, Roger talks with Ron about decades of work on sustainable ag, with a particular interest in organic work. They highlight the first organic bill in the 1980s, organic research (one particular report was saved from destruction under a new administration), and Roger’s international organic ag work in China and elsewhere.

Roger, an agricultural consultant, has been a leader in organic farming research, education, advocacy, and policymaking since the early 1970s. He has served on boards of more than 30 regional, national, and international organic, sustainable agriculture, and renewable energy organizations.

He now serves as a partner in developing a national organic and sustainable agriculture history collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

He was a founding director of the International Organic Accreditation Service, a founder and associate director of the World Sustainable Agriculture Association, and a participant in the process of setting international organic guidelines.

He co-chaired a coalition of national consumer, environmental, faith-based, and other organizations that helped shape the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act and push it through Congress.

His research contributions include developing and coordinating Ceres Trust organic research programs that awarded more than $6 million in grants to land grant university faculty and graduate student researchers.

The interview was conducted on Feb. 10, 2016.

Links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
Roger’s organic farming website

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May 11, 202201:19:33
10. Amy Little, organizer & activist

10. Amy Little, organizer & activist

Amy’s love of sustainable ag comes from her rebellious nature. A trait she’s had her entire life.

This week, Ron speaks with Amy Little, an organizer, trainer, and consultant on issue advocacy and electoral campaigns at the local, state, and national levels. Managing campaigns, building coalitions, developing policy advocacy, voter and civic participation operations, and strategy planning are methods of organizing she is most known for.

Organizations that Amy has worked for include a broad range of social and racial justice, sustainable agriculture, environmental, and civic engagement nongovernmental organizations. Included among them are National and State Citizen Action groups, AFL-CIO, Progressive Action Network, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, the Midwest Academy, and Planned Parenthood.

In addition to local/state elections, federal electoral campaigns include senate races of Wellstone, Harkin, and Lautenburg; congressional races of Hall, Pallone, Torricelli, Peterson, Bradley, and Florio; and the Presidential races of Obama, Kerry, Gore, and Clinton.

Amy was founding director of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, a broad grassroots network which later merged to become the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Amy's work with voter registration and GOTV efforts, in partnership with then-Senator Barack Obama, is also a highlight of her career.

The interview was conducted on Feb. 10, 2016.

Link this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
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May 04, 202201:18:03
09. Mark Lipson, organic farming pioneer

09. Mark Lipson, organic farming pioneer

Where did the Early Girl variety of tomato come from? Why is it suited for dry farming? Mark Lipson tells us in this week’s episode, and chats with Ron about organic agriculture, research, and public policies.

Mark is a 30-year pioneer and influential leader in the organic farming and food community in California and nationally. In 2016, he received the "Champion of Sustainable Agriculture Award" from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

He served a 4-year term as the Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Policy Advisor in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, from 2010 to 2014. At the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), he led the department-wide Organic Working Group and co-led the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Task Force.

Since completing his term at USDA, Mark has been appointed as a research associate in Organic Agriculture Policy at the University of California at Santa Cruz, affiliated with the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

Since 1983, he has been a member in Molino Creek Farm, a cooperative multi-family organic farming community near Davenport, California, and the original home of the famed, dry-farmed tomatoes.

He was the assistant executive director of California Certified Organic Farmers and the policy director at Organic Farming Research Foundation. Mark served as a Trustee of the Homeless Garden Project and the Organic Center.

Mark currently serves as Director of Policy and Regulatory Engagement at the Heartland Health Research Alliance. He is a staff affiliate for Organic Agriculture Policy at the University of California at Santa Cruz, affiliated with the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

The interview was conducted on Dec. 15, 2016.

Links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
Molino Creek Farm
California Certified Organic Farmers
Organic Farming Research Foundation
Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
Heartland Health Research Alliance

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Apr 27, 202201:05:35
08. Ferd Hoefner, Founding Policy Director of NSAC

08. Ferd Hoefner, Founding Policy Director of NSAC

In this episode, Ferd Hoefner outlines the role of sustainable agriculture in each farm bill from the early 1970s to the present, and talks about policy that was enacted—and advocated for—in between farm bill years.

He tells Ron about his start in Washington (an unusual first day of work), a “commandeered” report, the beginning of the organization now known as the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), and more. Yes, this is an extended listen, and sometimes gets wonky, but you want to tune in.

Ferd is the Founding Policy Director at NSAC, and has been a leader in the sustainable agriculture community for over 30 years. He led NSAC’s federal policy work as Policy Director from 1988 through 2016 and served as Senior Strategic Advisor from 2017 to 2020. He continues to mentor and advise the coalition in a consulting role.

NSAC is a leading voice for sustainable agriculture in the federal policy arena, joining together the interests of over 100 grassroots farm, food, conservation, and rural member organizations to advocate for federal policies supporting the long-term economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Among the many federal programs that NSAC has successfully developed and championed are Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, Wetlands Reserve Program, Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, Beginning Farmer Down Payment Loan Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, Farm to School Grants, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Whole Farm Revenue Protection, National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, and Value-Added Producer Grants, among others.

Prior to NSAC, Hoefner for nearly a decade represented Interfaith Action for Economic Justice and its predecessor, the Interreligious Taskforce on U.S. Food Policy, on federal policy on farm, food, and international development issues. He has also served as a policy consultant to numerous faith-based organizations and NGOs. He did his undergraduate studies at Oberlin College and graduate work at Wesley Theological Seminary.

The interview was conducted on Dec. 6, 2015.

Links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
Center for Rural Affairs
USDA Economic Research Service
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)
Farm Service Agency (FSA)
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
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Apr 20, 202203:09:33
07. Craig Cox, devoted to the outdoors

07. Craig Cox, devoted to the outdoors

In his early years, all Craig Cox wanted to do was be outside. He and a friend would hunt snakes along the bluffs of the Mississippi River near St. Paul, Minnesota, so he could take them home to put in an aquarium.

In today’s podcast, Craig talks with Ron about growing up hunting, fishing, and hiking, and how that shaped his career of working with wildlife, ecology, and natural resources.

Craig has devoted his working life to conservation since joining the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in 1977 as a field biologist. In 1989, Craig moved to Washington D.C to accept a position as Senior Staff Officer with the Board on Agriculture of the National Academy of Sciences, where he completed three major studies, including “Soil and Water Quality: An Agenda for Agriculture.”

In 1994, he joined the staff of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to lead the development of the conservation title of the farm bill that was passed in March 1996.

Craig then joined the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service as a Special Assistant to the Chief and served briefly as Acting Deputy Under-Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment in the Department of Agriculture. He moved to Iowa in 1998 to become Executive Director of the Soil and Water Conservation Society.

In August 2008, he joined the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Currently, he is the Senior Advisor on Agriculture and Environmental Policy at EWG.

The interview was conducted on Sept. 4, 2015.

Links this episode:
National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive (video link)
Environmental Working Group
Soil and Water Conservation Society

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Apr 13, 202201:20:01
06. Al Kurki, sustainable and food systems policy activist
Apr 06, 202251:39
05. Lydia Villanueva, diversity farming advocate
Mar 30, 202201:05:04
04. Mark Ritchie, cooperative food movement leader
Mar 23, 202201:26:41
03. Chuck Hassebrook, past director of the Center for Rural Affairs
Mar 16, 202228:23
02. Ricardo Salvador, long-time food security advocate
Mar 09, 202201:07:52
01. Wes Jackson, co-founder of The Land Institute
Mar 02, 202243:14
Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture Policy with Ron Kroese
Mar 02, 202249:11