MISA releases oral history of sustainable and organic agriculture leaders

Over the last 40 years the sustainable and organic movement has made amazing strides, with activists pushing along the way for policy reform and government programs to provide oversight and consistent standards. The struggles and experiences of these sustainability leaders are now archived through an online oral history video archive, thanks to work sponsored by the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA

The oral history archive includes 38 interviews, most in video format, with advocates from around the country whose efforts go back to the 1970s. According Helene Murray, MISA’s executive director, “The women and men whose stories were recorded for this archive are among the key leaders and activists 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 United States.”

Their interviews cover a range of topics from a review of the federal policy reforms achieved through the seven Farm Bills beginning in the early 1980s, to an exploration of further policy changes needed today to advance sustainable agriculture and a healthier food system.

In announcing the public release of the archive, Murray noted, “While we at MISA are pleased to be involved with the Archive, we acknowledge that it is by no means a complete compilation of all individuals who deserve credit for the progress that has been made over the past four decades. And we wish to thank the thousands of people around the country whose activism helped achieve the public policy gains that are highlighted in the Archive’s interviews, as well as the hundreds of thousands of farmers around the country who continue to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable and organic agriculture through their stewardship-based practices on the land.”

MISA served as the lead sponsor of the oral history project and will continue to house the Archive in cooperation with the University of Minnesota’s Digital Library. The interviews were conducted by Ron Kroese, a senior fellow at MISA’s Endowed Chair in Agricultural Systems from 2015 to 2018. View videos in the Archive.