Soil and water

Sustainable Agriculture History Project now available as a podcast

Interviews focused on the history of sustainable agriculture have been turned into a limited series of podcasts, “Sustainable Agriculture Policy with Ron Kroese”.

The interviews are part of an oral history archive documenting the development and evolution of public policy to advance sustainable and organic agriculture since the 1970s. Over 40 women and men featured are among key leaders and advocates who have played a significant role in designing and promoting laws and government programs that continue to support efforts to build a sustainable agricultural and food system in the United States.

Podcast host Ron Kroese developed the “National Oral History Archive of Sustainable Agriculture” alongside the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture. The Rural Affairs Center brought the interviews to the podcast platform.

“Over the Center’s nearly 50-year history, the emergence of federal policy supporting soil and water conservation, local and regional food systems, beginning farmers, and value-added agriculture is one of the most important areas of political victories,” said Brian Depew, chief executive of the Center for Rural Affairs. “That’s why when I heard about Ron’s Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Project, I knew it should be available as a podcast.”

The first episode was released today, Wednesday March 2, with each episode airing on Wednesdays. Listen on all major podcast platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and others.

The main topics discussed in the interviews include:

  • A review of federal policy reforms achieved through the seven farm bills beginning in the early 1980s, as well as reminiscences of grassroots campaigns through which farmers and other activists advocated for sustainable agriculture and conservation policies that have been obtained through these farm bills;
  • The social and political context surrounding the formation in the early 1980s of what became the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC);
  • The evolution of NSAC from its beginnings as an informal network of grassroots organizations—most of which were located in the Midwest—to the more formal structure of Regional Sustainable Agriculture Working Groups (SAWGs) across the country in the 1990s, to today’s NSAC with its 120 organizations from across the United States;
  • A discussion of where the efforts of sustainable and organic agriculture advocates have failed, as well as an exploration of the additional policy changes needed to advance sustainable agriculture and a healthier food system in the future.

“The story told in these interviews is rich, detailed by people who have experienced the work, most of them engaged in the effort for decades,” Depew said. “This is a great project with the greatest credit going to Ron, as well as those who participated in the interviews. I’m glad the Center was able to support a small part of the wider dissemination of this story via podcast.

Kroese co-founded the Land Stewardship Project in 1982, and later worked in philanthropy, supporting numerous organizations committed to developing sustainable agricultural policy. When he retired from the McKnight Foundation in 2015, he launched an effort that eventually grew to 40 videotaped interviews.

Among those interviewed are Chuck Hassebrook, former Executive Director of the Centre; Wes Jackson, President Emeritus of the Land Institute; Mark Ritchie, former president of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy; and Ricardo Salvador, Food and Environment Program Director, Union of Concerned Scientists.

The interviews are also available as video recordings and transcripts. Visit cfra.org/SustainableAgPodcast for broadcast notes and links.