Sustainable agriculture history project now available as podcast 

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

The interviews are a 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. More than 40 women and men featured 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.

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

“In the nearly 50-year history of the Center, 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 significant areas of policy wins,” said Brian Depew, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs. “This is 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 out on Wednesdays. Listen on all major podcast platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and others.

Major topics covered in the interviews include:

  • A review of the federal policy reforms achieved through the seven farm bills beginning in the early 1980s, along with recollections of the grassroots campaigns through which farmers and other activists advocated for the sustainable agriculture and conservation policies that were gained through those farm bills;
  • The social and political context surrounding the formation in the early 1980s of what became the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition;
  • The evolution of NSAC from its early days 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) around the country in the 1990s, to the NSAC of today with its 120 organizations from throughout the U.S.;
  • A discussion of where the efforts of sustainable and organic farming advocates came up short, as well as an exploration of further policy changes needed to advance sustainable agriculture and a healthier food system going forward.

“The history told in these interviews is rich, detailed by the individuals who lived the work, most of them engaged in the effort for decades,” Depew said. “This is a large project with most significant credit to Ron, as well as the individuals who sat for interviews. I am happy the Center (for Rural Affairs) could support a small part of making this history more widely available through a podcast.”

Kroese co-founded the Land Stewardship Project in 1982, and later he worked in philanthropy, supporting many organizations engaged in the development of sustainable agriculture policy. When he retired from the McKnight Foundation in 2015, he began an effort that eventually grew to 40 videotaped interviews.

Among those interviewed are Chuck Hassebrook, former Center executive director; Wes Jackson, president emeritus of The Land Institute; Mark Ritchie, former president of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy; and Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food & Environment Program, Union of Concerned Scientists.

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

About the Center for Rural Affairs
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action-oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.