In the 1880s, the XIT ranch was the largest range in the world under fence and it all laid in the Texas Panhandle. It’s three million acres sprawled across ten counties in Texas. The state of Texas, the biggest state in the union, used the sale of the ranch to pay for it’s red granite capitol, still the largest state capitol on the North American Continent. The Austin structure still houses the Lone Star state government more than a century later, and is second in size only to the capitol building at Washington, D.C.
The story of the ranch is fascinating and the museum brings history to life. If you don’t get a chance to visit the museum you can read more about that history HERE.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Oral History Archive is a collection of interviews with people who have been instrumental in the development and implementation of public policies to advance sustainable agriculture in the United States. It was started in 2015 and has been growing ever since. Several of the interviews are with key members of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and their interviews document the process of formation and evolution that has led to the NSAC that we know today. They also discuss the federal policy reforms NSAC, its allies, and predecessor coalitions have achieved over the past four decades.
To date there are 31 interviews available in the archive, most in a video format with accompanying written transcription. The plan for the next year involves conducting 8-10 more interviews featuring several farmer/civil rights activists in the South among others.
Among the main topics covered in the interviews are:
The political and social context surrounding the initial federal policy efforts in the 1970s and 1980s to advance organic and sustainable agriculture;
The evolution of what became the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, from its early days as an informal network of grassroots organizations, to the more formal structure of regional Sustainable Agriculture Working Groups (SAWGs) in the 1990s, to the NSAC of today with its 120 organizations from around the country;
A review of the policy gains that support organic and sustainable agriculture achieved through federal Farm Bills from 1985 through 2014, including a discussion of where policy proposals fell short, despite the efforts of sustainable agriculture advocates;
What now? Exploration of priorities going forward that are needed to strengthen organic and sustainable farming and build a healthy food system.
On this day in 1845, Westminster, the UK Parliament passed the 1845 enclosure act. Although not the first step in the enclosure of the commons, this act created enclosure commissioners who were given the authority to enclose land without prior parliamentary approval. In total, over the course of 300 years, the British government enclosed nearly 7 million acres of the commons in Britain alone. In doing so they created the ‘working class’ and systematic private property in one fell swoop. This model became a worldwide blueprint that has led us to the situation in which we find ourselves today. Enclosure of the commons, coupled with imperialism has ensured that hundreds of millions of people are unable to access agricultural land and billions more live in abject poverty, despite living in regions of abundance. (more…)
On the one hand, it is great to see how far we’ve come. And on the other, it is pretty difficult to accept how far we haven’t. Pay close attention at 19:00 minutes to what one farm employer has to say about working conditions, wages, and his workers dispositions.
Initially a movement to improve agriculture. Travelling speakers would speak about the latest scientific agricultural techniques, and the operations of the commercial economy. An offshoot of the Morrill Act which established land grant universities (like the University of Maryland) to advance agriculture.
The speakers were the knowledgeable who educated the farmers. The Grange Hall provided a successor to the lyceum and chatauqua where farmers came to hear lectures. They heard about crop rotation, hybridized seed, and other scientific advancements. They also learned the language of commercial activity: markets, supply and demand, borrowing capital, investment strategies, and so on. Thus, science, business, and education (training) were brought to agriculture. (more…)