Blast from the past: Hightower and the organic farming revolution of the 1970s
A tidbit from Hightower’s history that we thought you might enjoy: Back in 1973, he and Susan DeMarco published Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times-- a researched-based, scathing dissection of how “the big agriculture and technical universities strayed from their original research mission of aiding consumers and rural communities.” It triggered Congressional hearings (!), and became a cornerstone of the kind of agricultural and rural advocacy that Hightower is known for.
That same year, Organic Gardening & Farming published the following piece about the ongoing work and its lasting impact--and included this iconic picture of Hightower at an event that year. We hope you enjoy this perspective!
Jim Hightower's Lowdown is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
The Coming Revolution in Agricultural Research
There's a key to upgrading the quality of research so that it benefits all of us supporting the land grant colleges—the small farmer, the organic grower, the concerned taxpayer.
Organic Gardening and Farming, July 1973
SOME BOOKS MAKE a tremendous impact on life in these United States. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, Unsafe At Any Speed by Ralph Nader are just a few. Many other books, just as worthy, never get so widely known—Sir Albert Howard's An Agricultural Testament, F. H. King's Farmers of 40 Centuries, J. I. Rodale's Pay Dirt, for example.
Then there are some reports which are never even publicized, even though they reveal data which directly affect our lives. I just finished reading one such report on the way out to the First National Conference on Land Reform. It has the unwieldy title of Report of the Committee Advisory to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but the information in it is straight and to-the-point. It costs only $4.85 and is available from the National Technical Information Service in Springfield, Virginia.
Basically, the report—prepared by well-known academic scientists who studied federal and state agricultural research organizations—concluded that there is "a shocking amount of low-quality research in agriculture" and a "shocking lack of intellectual leadership." Though the report is dated April, 1972, it was restricted to top administrative levels within the USDA until this spring.
By bringing the criticism into the open, the scientists who prepared the report in the name of the National Academy of Sciences have done a tremendous service to many agricultural researchers "within the system" who have been stilled for years. The people high up in the USDA who sat back in their chairs and comfortably told critics (like organic gardeners and farmers) that the USDA "serves all Americans" can no longer sit back. Their own peers have exposed them!
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial