Descriptions of Roger Blobaum’s Organic and Related Papers on this Website and at the Wisconsin Historical Society
Roger Blobaum is presently in the process of transferring his life long collection of organic movement and related documents to the Wisconsin Historical Society for a national organic archival collection. A portion of the collection is available on this website. It is estimated that the Wisconsin Historical Society will have Roger’s papers archived and available for public viewing in 2013. If you have organic related documents that you would like to donate to the Wisconsin Historical Society for preservation please contact Roger Blobaum rjblobaum(at)gmail(dot)com
1964-66. Press Secretary. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis)
Included responsibility for staff work on environmental and agricultural policy. Papers of interest relate to work developing and promoting legislation to ban the manufacture of DDT and to developing and promoting a new conservation title that was included in the 1965 farm bill. Related material includes some texts of pesticide issue interviews of Senator Nelson in the weekly program produced in the office and distributed to Wisconsin radio stations.
1971-1980. National Coalition for Land Reform
A California-based nonprofit set up initially to oppose development by the University of California of the mechanized tomato harvester and to oppose attempts to undermine the 160-acre limitation on access to public irrigation water by industrialized agriculture interests in the Central Valley. Papers of interest, in addition to those involving initial development of the coalition, relate to my work as the coalition’s land reform organizer in the Midwest. This includes organizing the First Midwest Land Conference and overall efforts to promote and support state-specific legislation banning corporate farming. Extensive files on the movement to ban corporate farming includes Senate subcommittee testimony, statements and speeches and published articles, a committee report prepared for the Monopoly Subcommittee of the Senate Small Business Committee that was published by the committee and later republished as a book chapter, materials related to action in state legislatures, correspondence, and other materials. The land conference included presentations on organic farming that resulted in a nationally-syndicated Los Angeles Times story, the first national media story describing the development of organic agriculture in the Midwest. The piece by Bryce Nelson later was included as a chapter in the book entitled Food for People, Not for Profit.
1972, Democratic National Committee, Washington, DC
After chairing the Platform Committee of the Iowa Democratic Party, Roger was asked by the Democratic National Committee to organize its national farm/rural platform hearing in Sioux City, Iowa; to organize the hearing input and draft the farm/rural section of the party’s national campaign platform, and to work with national platform committee members in reaching agreement on the language of the national platform’s farm/rural section approved at the party’s national convention in Miami. The collection includes copies of the material generated in successfully completing this political process.
1972-75. Editorial consultant, The Rodale Press, Emmaus. Pennsylvania. 1970s Farmer Profiles | 1970s Organic History
This work included producing organic farmer profile articles for Organic Gardening and Farming, a national Rodale Press magazine. It involved identifying outstanding organic farmers in Midwest states, tape recording interviews with them on their farms, photographing them and their operations, and submitting articles and photos for publication. The collection of profiles also includes several published in The Organic Observer, a small Midwest publication. Items of interest include several original recordings of farmer interviews, negatives of photos of organic farmers and their farms, a series of transcribed interviews, correspondence with editors, and other similar materials. Several profiles and articles on related organic topics also were re-published by the Rodale Press in The Yearbook of Organic Farming and in Organic Farming: Yesterday’s and Tomorrow’s Agriculture.
1974-76. Center for the Biology of Natural Systems, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.
The papers relate to membership on the center’s agricultural energy advisory committee, my recommendation that a center project funded by the National Science Foundation initiate a Midwest study comparing the energy use and economic viability of organic and conventional farms, participation as a study team member in selecting the organic farms and matching conventional farms in five Midwest states, participation in soil sampling and other farm-generated data gathering, and work in reviewing and disseminating the results. This first study of its kind was an organic research breakthrough. The papers include a report on this research published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, a peer-reviewed journal, and a news story describing the results that was published on the front page of the Sunday New York Times and syndicated nationwide.
1974-75. Citizens Advisory Committee on Environmental Quality,
A White House advisory committee. This material was generated in conducting the first government funded national assessment of the loss of agricultural land. This included researching the adverse impact of urban and other development on farmland and an analysis of the various state and local attempts to preserve and protect agricultural land. The collection includes material gathered in completing this assessment, the published assessment, various published articles, and presentations on farmland loss at conferences and other events. The follow up included publication of the assessment report by the Library of Congress in its 1975 “Readings in Land Use Policy.”
1974-76. U.S. Farmer Tours of the People’s Republic of China.
This material was collected as a member of the first group of U.S. farmers invited by the Chinese government to tour agricultural areas in China after the “opening” that followed President Nixon’s visit. Two 35mm cameras were carried, one shooting black and white and one shooting color slides, during the two-week trip with total freedom to take pictures. Roger helped organize a second farmer trip the following year that included a wheat breeder, a soil scientist, a physician, and two rural sociologists. This was a three-week tour, again mostly in agricultural areas, and again there were no picture-taking restrictions. The collection of photos taken on the two trips totals roughly 1,500 black and white photos and 1,500 color slides. An illustrated Chinese agriculture program, the first of its kind in this country, was developed from the collection of color slides. Roger presented this program more than 60 times on college and university campuses, on Capitol Hill, as an evening program at farm organization dinners and agricultural conferences, and at other similar events. Friends at China Agricultural University were surprised and impressed recently when told about the pictures because they said there were no cameras in rural China at that time. These trips took place near the end of the Cultural Revolution when almost all of China’s food was being produced in a nationwide system of party-controlled agricultural communes.
During this 5-year period, a good portion of Roger’s work as an agricultural consultant focused on projects related to development of solar and other renewable energy alternatives on farms in the Midwest. The main effort was the Small Farm Energy Project, a 39-month national research and demonstration project involving 48 small farms in northeast Nebraska. Serving as the principal investigator of this federally-funded award-winning project involved supervising a staff that assisted farmers in designing, building, and demonstrating solar and other renewable energy projects and gathering data on their performance. The collection includes progress reports, fact sheets, memos and correspondence, Congressional testimony, reports on consultations with state agencies, a book chapter documenting the results, and a slide presentation that was the centerpiece of an educational program I presented around the country more than 100 times. This project led to appointment to the national Sun Day organizing committee, to service on the board of directors of the National Solar Lobby, to appointment to the advisory committee of the National Solar Energy Institute, and to renewable energy contracts with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Appalachian Regional Commission. This is a large collection that helps tell the story of the history of solar and other renewable energy alternatives on Midwest farms during the late 1970s.
1982-1986. Institute for Alternative Agriculture (later renamed the Wallace Institute), Beltsville. Maryland
When the institute was founded by Garth Youngberg, who had been fired from his position as USDA’s first organic farming coordinator by the incoming Republican Secretary of Agriculture, I was retained as a consultant to help develop its two new subscription-supported publications. One was the American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, a quarterly peer-reviewed journal, and the other was Alternative Agriculture News, a monthly newsletter. The collection also includes work later as the Institute’s director of public policy, a position that included serving as managing editor of the journal and editor of the newsletter. It also included work on Capitol Hill supporting legislation designed to implement the 1980 USDA report entitled “Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming.” The collection includes early newsletters, board meeting minutes, publication planning memos, legislative reports, and other materials.
1989-1993. Center for Science in the Public Interest. Washington. DC
Work as a consultant to CSPI led to a full-time position as director of its Americans for Safe Food initiative. This included responsibility for CSPI’s annual national organic/sustainable agriculture conference, for helping shape the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and pushing it through Congress, for organizing state-level nonprofit organizations into coalitions to support organic and sustainable agriculture legislative initiatives, for liaison with more than 60 local Safe Food organizations, and for political and media work on the full range of food safety and organic farming issues. The work on OFPA included serving as co-chair of the Organic Food Act Working Group, a coalition of 27 regional and national consumer, environmental, animal protection, organic farmer, and other organizations that helped shape OFPA and push it through Congress. The collection includes Congressional and state legislature testimony, texts of presentations made at workshops and conferences around the country, taped sessions of the four national conferences, legislative memos, materials used at state meetings, and other materials.
1989-1994. Organic Farmers Associations Council
The national organization of small certification and organic farmer organizations founded in 1989 at an organizing meeting in Leavenworth, Kansas. The meeting was organized when it became clear that Congress would consider the proposed Organic Foods Production Act in 1990 and that organic farmers needed to become politically involved to protect their economic and other interests. The organization was effective in helping to shape the legislation and in follow-up implementation activities. The collection includes work providing legislative guidance to this organization, which was finally disbanded in 1994 due to lack of resources. The official records of OFAC were rescued from a barn in New York State with the understanding that Roger would make every effort to have them included in my donated collection. These records, plus Roger’s own papers related to this organization, represent a very significant piece of organic farming history.
1994-2000. Board of Directors, Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), Santa Cruz. California
OFRF is a national public interest organization founded in 1990 by certified organic farmers. The organization’s grant making, policy, research, and education initiatives support information needs of organic farmers while moving the public and policymakers toward greater support for organic farming systems. The collection includes material collected during six years as board member. This included participation in grant making decisions for the organization’s small grants program. The collection includes board meeting minutes and materials, committee work reports, memos, legislative alerts, workshop presentations, and other materials.
In July of 1992, Roger was one of 16 organic and sustainable agriculture advocates who met at Sunrise Ranch near Loveland, Colorado, and founded the National Dialogue on Sustainable Agriculture. They had worked together in shaping the Organic Foods Production Act and pushing it through Congress. This meeting was called to discuss a broader agenda that included developing and mobilizing support for sustainable agriculture initiatives and programs as well as implementing OFPA. The collection includes a report of the founding meeting plus material gathered while serving as a member of the national dialogue steering committee, convening a 1993 meeting to gain participation in the dialogue of more national and regional consumer and environmental organizations, and organizing the 1994 national dialogue meeting that established legislative and other priorities for the new coalition. It covers involvement in the organization as it raised funds and hired staff and changed, as a result, from a dialogue into a coalition and finally into the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture. This national nonprofit became the most active and influential national organization working on farm bills and their implementation and influencing organic and sustainable agriculture overall. Much of this collection deals with the campaign’s organic committee, which was the organic policy arm of the campaign and the main organic advocacy group influencing federal organic policy and appropriations. The collection includes action alerts relating to helping shape and implement farm bills, monitoring and influencing the National Organic Standards Board and the National Organic Program, and influencing organic issues overall. After 14 years, Roger joined other organic committee members in leaving the campaign and founding the National Organic Coalition. The campaign has since been merged into the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. This extensive collection helps tell the story of national organic and sustainable agriculture policymaking during this 15-year period.
1992-1993. Washington Representative. Organic Foods Production Association of North America (OFPANA)
Roger was the first Washington representative of OFPANA, which later became the Organic Trade Association (OTA), the main organic industry trade organization. The main responsibility was building support for implementation by USDA of the Organic Foods Production Act, lobbying Congress to appropriate funds needed for implementation, and organizing opposition that led to defeat of a USDA green label scheme opposed by the organic community. The collection includes reports to OFPANA’s staff and board on successful efforts to obtain the first funds from Congress for OFPA implementation and materials relating to defeat of the green label plan. Increasing international travel forced me to give up this work after one year.
1991-1996. Associate Director, World Sustainable Agriculture Association
Roger was one of the founders of WSAA at a 1991 meeting in Japan of organic and sustainable agriculture advocates from several countries and an active participant in preparing the bylaws, structuring this international organization, and developing its issue advocacy programs. Serving as part-time associate director involved managing its Washington office and its international public policy advocacy initiatives, serving as its accredited representative at the United Nations, participating in preparatory meetings for the Earth Summit at the UN and in NGO Earth Summit events in Rio, representing WSAA at the International Conference on Nutrition in Geneva and other international meetings, and speaking at international sustainable agriculture conferences in China, Taiwan, Australia, Hungary, and Mexico. Membership on WSAA’s executive committee also generated material dealing with the full range of governance issues. This is a very complete collection that includes minutes of meetings, memos and correspondence, Earth Summit and other international meeting reports, copies of the organization’s international newsletter, and a great deal of other information about global organic and sustainable agriculture development.
1996-1999. Organic Watch, Washington, DC.
When USDA issued the first proposed rule for implementation of the Organic Foods Production Act, the organic community’s response was a campaign to force the agency to withdraw and rewrite the proposed rule. This collection includes material generated as a founder of Organic Watch, a small group of organic food and farming advocates that launched its own national campaign to force USDA to back down, and as a member of its steering committee. This work was staffed by the International Center for Technology Assessment, a Washington-based nonprofit organization. Organic Watch helped develop and implement strategy that resulted in the 278,000 negative comments that forced USDA to withdraw the proposed rule. This effort included developing an effective anti-rule message, recruiting volunteers who monitored comments coming into USDA to make certain all were counted, and organizing a public relations effort to support this campaign. Organic Watch also actively opposed adoption of the American Organic Standards, private standards developed by consultants retained by the Organic Trade Association. This collection includes a great deal of material related to the successful national campaign to force USDA to withdraw and rewrite the organic implementation rule.
1991-1996. Michael Fields Agricultural Institute. East Troy, Wisconsin.
Involvement in Michael Fields began with a year of participation as a member of its agricultural policy advisory committee. This was followed by selection in 1992 as its executive director, a part-time position held for nearly three years. Service to the organization included serving two more years as a member of the organization’s board of directors. This collection includes board meeting materials, policy memos, research reports, and other materials. It also includes material on participation as Michael Fields representative on the Midwest Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (Midwest SAWG), an affiliate of the National Dialogue on Sustainable Agriculture.
1993-2008. Organic Agriculture Development in China.
In 1993 Roger presented a paper entitled “Organic Food and Farming: Development of Ecologically Sound Agriculture Around the World” at a session of the International Symposium on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in Beijing. The presentation attracted the attention of organic farming and green food advocates in Beijing and led to nine follow up consulting/speaking trips to China over the next 15 years. The Chinese Bureau of Foreign Experts supported trips for consultations at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Green Food Development Center and at the Institute for Agroecology at China Agricultural University. Consulting work at China Agricultural University included presentation of a one-week organic food and farming short course, the first offered in China. The work with the Green Food Center included providing a half-day of organic food and farming training in Xian for Green Food leaders from throughout China. Speaking engagements in Beijing included the Asia-Pacific Symposium on Sustainable Food Production, Income Generation, and Consumer Protection in 1998, which was co-sponsored by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture; the International Seminar on Organic Food Production in China in 2000, and the Asia-Pacific Region Conference or Organic Accreditation in 2008. The trips included opportunities to participate in organic farmer meetings in rural China, present several lectures on organic agriculture at China Agricultural University, and travel widely to visit both organic and Green Food operations. This collection includes texts of presentations, a copy of the short course materials, photographs, and other materials prepared for and/or collected during these consulting trips.
1993-1996. Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Development in Central and Eastern Europe
This collection covers involvement in organic and sustainable agriculture development in Hungary and Moldova. The collection covers work carried out at the Regional Environmental Center in Budapest in 1) developing a sustainable agriculture small grants program implemented in 12 Central and Eastern European countries; 2) returning to meet with grantees and participate in fine tuning this initiative, and 3) returning two years later to spend a month at the center preparing an evaluation of the program. This work also led to a later opportunity to return to Budapest to keynote a national sustainable agriculture conference organized by the Hungarian government. The organic and sustainable agriculture development work in Moldova was carried out in cooperation with scientists at the Field Crops Institute at Beltsy.
1994-2009. International Organic Accreditation Service (IOAS) Jamestown, ND
Roger was a founding director in 1998 of the IOAS, a U.S.-based nonprofit that replaced the accreditation committee of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) that he had served on since 1994. The IOAS maintains a staff of auditors that provide the on-site information gathering needed to accredit organic certification bodies in more than 75 countries. This collection includes annual reports, policy papers dealing with the development of global accreditation, memos involving grower groups and other issues relating to organic certification of organic operations in developing countries, and reports on the development of European Union, Canadian, Japanese, and other government organic regulations, and related materials. It also includes material on participation as a delegate to the 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th, and 28th sessions of the Codex Committee on Food Labeling in Ottawa, Canada, and participation as a member during this five-year period of the Organic Working Group that prepared international organic guidelines. The Codex Committee is a joint activity of the World Health Organization and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
1999-Present. Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES). Spring Valley, Wisconsin.
As a consultant, Roger participated in founding this Wisconsin-based organization. This included involvement in drafting the bylaws and organizing the two-day meeting in Trempealeau, Wisconsin, where the new organization was introduced to the organic and sustainable agriculture community and where it developed the mission statement that still guides its educational programs. This collection covers Roger’s work as the organization’s initial fund raiser and the developer of new programs to supplement the existing annual conference that the new MOSES organization had taken over. These initiatives included a federally-funded program to provide organic farming training for agricultural professionals, the Organic University which now attracts more than 500 participants annually, the farmer-to-farmer mentoring program, and the Organic Farmer of the Year Award program. Later Roger was elected to the board and served as the organization’s treasurer. This collection is extensive and covers the first 12 years of the evolution of one of the nation’s most successful agricultural nonprofit organizations. The conferences, which feature nationally-prominent keynote speakers and 70 workshops annually, have been tape recorded the last 17 years and arrangements have been made to have these tapes donated as part of this collection. This collection also includes Roger’s national organic issues column published for five years in the Organic Broadcaster, the MOSES bimonthly publication. The columns deal in detail with all of the major organic policy developments impacting organic farmers in the 2005-2010 period.
2006-Present. National Organic Coalition.
Roger was part of the small group of organic advocates that left the organic committee of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture and founded the National Organic Coalition. It is an expanding coalition of national and regional consumer, environmental, and organic farming organizations established to represent the interests of organic farmers in Washington and to provide a voice in the national policy arena and in the national media for organic food and farming advocates. It also monitors activities of the National Organic Standards Board and the National Organic Program to help make sure they follow policies that guarantee organic integrity. This collection includes farm bill and appropriations committee materials, legislative alerts, reports on NOSB meetings, papers dealing with nanotechnology and GMOs, and similar materials. Also included are materials related to active participation in the five-year process of developing the National Organic Action Plan, which was developed in cooperation with the National Organic Coalition and featured a series of stakeholder meetings around the country.
Other Papers in the Collection.
These include materials related to membership on the board of directors of the Organic Field School, a Minnesota-based nonprofit that provides on-farm, organic, and ecologically-based practical education and research for farmers and education for educators, policymakers, and others on the benefits and values of regional, ecologically-based, organic farming systems. Other materials deal with 1) service as a member of the board of directors of the Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA) a regional organic certification organization headquartered in Viroqua, Wisconsin; 2) service in the 1990s as a member of the board of directors of the Midwest Organic Alliance, a Minnesota-based nonprofit established to build the market for organic food in the Twin Cities, and 3) membership in the 1980s on the board of directors of Appropriate Technology International, a government supported nonprofit that funded small low-technology projects in developing countries.
As a speaker at state, national, and international seminars, conferences, and other public events since 1971, Roger has saved the written texts of several hundred of these presentations. Included are testimony presented at Congressional hearings, keynote speeches at organic and sustainable agriculture conferences here and in other countries, presentations later revised and published as book chapters, and countless presentations at professional meetings, conferences, seminars, workshops, and other events. This collection of presentations helps trace the evolution of organic and sustainable agriculture issues over the last 40 years.