The Organic Movement in Michigan

Edited by Maynard Kaufman and Julia Christianson


Maynard Kaufman
The Early Organic Movement in MichiganJulia Christianson


Organic Growers of Michigan: 1973-2005Maynard Kaufman
Chapters of OGM 
    SouthwestMaynard Kaufman
    Third CoastFred Reusch
    SoutheastBob & Linda Kidwell
    ThumbJoe Scrimger
    LifelineLinda & Lee Purdy
The Organic Certification Program
      After National Organic Standards
Pat Whetham


The Origins of Michigan Organic Food and Farm AllianceMaynard Kaufman
MOFFA in the '90s:
      Enlarging the Organic Movement in Michigan
Laura B. DeLind
MOFFA in the 21st CenturyJim Bingen

PART III: Other Organic Groups and Activities

The Organic Movement at MSUGeorge Bird
The Student Organic Farm at MSUJohn Biernbaum
Organic Farmers of MichiganDean Berden
MDA Organic Advisory CommitteeJulia Christianson
Origins of Michigan Land TrusteesKen Dahlberg
Community Supported Agriculture in 2002:
      The State of the Art in Michigan
Laura B. DeLind
Organic Food Co-ops in Michigan:
      A Case Study of Oryana Community Co-op
Luise Bolleber
beginningfarmers.orgTaylor Reid
Organic Soil ManagementJoe Scrimger

PART IV: Organic Farming, Now More Important Than Ever

Organics — The New IndustryLeah and Jessie Smith
The Future of Organic Farming in a Time of Global Warming       Maynard Kaufman

Cover Design and Illustration by Laura B. DeLind

Dean Berden has been farming all his life. He observed the shift from traditional to chemical farming in the 1960s, and transitioned to organic methods in the early 1980s. He is a founding member of Organic Farmers of Michigan. He retired 15 years ago from teaching industrial education and built an off-grid home using solar power. That experience led to a collaboration with his daughter in DB Solar LLC, which provides solar photovoltaic systems to homes, businesses, and farm operations across Michigan. He and his wife continue to grow field crops on their farm in Michigan’s Thumb.

Dr. John Biernbaum holds degrees in Horticultural Science from North Carolina State University (B.S.), Pennsylvania State University (M.S.), and Michigan State University (Ph.D.). He joined the MSU faculty in the Horticulture Department in 1985. His primary responsibility is teaching several courses including Organic Farming Principles and Practices, High Tunnels, Organic Transplants, and Compost Production and Use. In recent years his research has focused on composting campus food residues, with a special interest in vermicomposting. He routinely provides outreach presentations supporting small-scale year-round diversified organic agriculture including urban agriculture. He has been a member of the board of directors of Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance since 2009, and presently serves as the organization’s Chair.

Dr. Jim Bingen is a Professor Emeritus, Community, Food and Agriculture in the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University. He currently works on several applied research studies of organic farming and place-named foods and development in the Great Lakes States of the US, in Western Europe, and in French-speaking Africa. He was a Fulbright Distinguished Chair at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna, and he holds the Chevalier d'Ordre du Mérite Agricole (Order of Agricultural Merit) awarded by the Government of France.

Dr. George W. Bird is a Professor in the Department of Entomology at Michigan State University and former Research Scientist, Agriculture Canada and Associate Professor, University of Georgia. He received his B.S. and M.S. from Rutgers University and the Ph.D. at Cornell University. George spent much of his childhood on a poultry/dairy farm in southeastern Vermont, and managed an apple orchard in western Massachusetts during his high school years. He has been at MSU since 1973, where he teaches, does research on soil-borne issues, and works closely with both organic and conventional growers. In addition, Dr. Bird served as the first National Director of the U.S. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE).

Luise Bolleber is the Outreach & Marketing Specialist at Oryana Community Cooperative and holds an MFA in creative non-fiction writing from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is passionate about organic agriculture and is proud to work for a co-op business that places such a high priority on organic food.

Julia Christianson was born and raised in Oklahoma City, and received her B.A. from the University of Virginia. A lifetime organic gardener, she spent her career in non-profit administration in the Washington, D.C. area. She and her husband moved to Michigan in 2010, settling on a few acres east of Decatur. She joined MOFFA in 2010 and has served as the organization’s "very part-time" administrative staff since January, 2013.

Dr. Kenneth A. Dahlberg is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Environmental and Sustainability Studies. His academic research and writing has regularly gone into areas not previously explored. This started with his 1979 book, Beyond the Green Revolution: The Ecology and Politics of Global Agricultural Development and was followed in 1986 with New Directions for Agriculture and Agricultural Research: Neglected Dimensions and Emerging Alternatives. His interest in research and policy development led to two Kellogg Foundation grants: “Building a National Network of Municipal Food System Policy Groups” 1994-1997. In 1982, he was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He served on the Agriculture, Forestry, and Waste Technical Work Group of Gov. Granholm’s Climate Action Council 2008-2009. He helped the Greater Grand Rapids Food Council get started and served as the Michigan Land Trustees representative to the Good Food Kalamazoo Coalition.

Dr. Laura B. DeLind was a founding board member of MOFFA. She edited MOFFA’s first organic directory and coordinated MOFFA’s programs at the MSU Agricultural and Natural Resources Week for many years. She was instrumental in establishing Growing in Place Community Farm, a CSA that operated from 1995-2002. In 2010, she co-founded and continues to direct the Lansing Urban Farm Project, a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to raise and market fresh produce on Lansing’s Eastside, train urban farmers, and promote urban agriculture. In addition to her academic and agricultural work, she makes linocuts inspired by her natural surroundings, and contributed the book's cover illustration and design. More of her work can be seen at

Dr. Maynard Kaufman grew up on a farm in South Dakota. After receiving his doctorate from the University of Chicago, he taught courses in Religion and Environmental Studies at Western Michigan University from 1963 to 1987. In 1973 he was granted a half-time leave of absence from classroom teaching to conduct a School of Homesteading in Bangor, Michigan. When Organic Growers of Michigan was organized that same year he had his farm Certified Organic and was soon active in the organic movement. In 1991-1992 he co-organized Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance. He has published many articles on food, farming, and energy issues, and in 2008 he published Adapting to the End of Oil: Toward an Earth-Centered Spirituality. In 2001 Maynard and his wife Barbara moved into an off-grid house powered by sun and wind. They have retired from farming, but still enjoy gardening to raise their food.

Bob and Linda Kidwell have owned and operated a diversified organic farm in Hillsdale County since 1974. Now, somewhat retired, they still raise hay, sheep, a large garden, and cut flowers for a farmers market.

Lee and Linda Purdy met at an Organic Growers of Michigan meeting in the spring of 1994; it was Linda’s second Organic Growers meeting. Lee had been raised at Westwind Farm, and had just moved back with his two young daughters; Linda had a certified organic herb farm. When they got together, they had both been looking at an historic flour mill in Argentine which had been up for sale for several years. They bought it together, got married, and tried to combine two families, all at the same time, in 2000-2001. They were millers of certified organic grains for 15 years. In 2016, they sold the Mill, and are now readying their stone mill to be up and operating in its new location at Westwind Farm—while growing their own grain, operating a CSA, hosting educational, sustainable living events, and participating in online sales of all their farm products.

Dr. Taylor Reid holds degrees in Plant and Soil Science (B.S., University of Massachusetts), Botany and Plant Pathology (M.S., Michigan State University), and Community, Food, and Agriculture (Ph.D., Michigan State University). He is currently the Sustainable Farming and Food Systems Program Chair, and Farm Education Director, at Tompkins Cortland Community College in Dryden, New York. His research has focused on the values, motivations, and learning processes of first-generation farmers, and on the organic farming movement in Michigan. He is a former Chair of the Michigan Integrated Food and Farming Systems (MIFFS) Ag. Policy Committee, and served on the Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance (MOFFA) Board of Directors from 2006-2009.

Fred Reusch is currently a math teacher at Rockford High School. He started an organic restaurant in 1977 (Down to Earth) where he grew many of the vegetables for use in the restaurant. He then ran N’Harmony Farms for 15 years, and continues to support the organic movement.

Joe and Kay Scrimger started farming organically in 1973 and by 1975 had transitioned 280 acres to an organic program. Scrimger Farm now has 130 acres and is certified by OCIA. Joe and Kay were OGM members from 1976 to 2002; Joe was Thumb Chair and State Chair along with other positions. Joe is currently the interim president of the Farm to Consumer Foundation, of which he has been a board member since 2012. He was a founding member and first Chairman of Michigan Thumb Organics (MTO) from 1999-2012. He also was a founding member and first chairman of Organic Farmers of Michigan (OFM) in 1993-1999. Joe currently owns and manages Bio-Systems, an independent soil testing and consulting business he started in 1980 in Marlette, MI.

Jessie Smith is a Michigan State University alumna (B.S., Crop and Soil Sciences; M.S., Entomology) and freelance agricultural writer. She works at Nodding Thistle, her family’s farm in Barry County, that has a history of organic gardening and farm marketing since 1984. The integrated farm includes small grain crops and hay, a small beef/dairy herd and chicken flock, and six acres containing vegetables, small fruits, herbs, and an orchard.

Leah Smith is a Michigan State University alumna (B.S., Crop and Soil Sciences) and freelance agricultural writer. She works at her family’s farm, Nodding Thistle, which was certified organic for 25 years by the Organic Growers of Michigan (1984-2006), the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (2007-2008), and Certified Naturally Grown (2009). The farm continues to grow vegetables and other products in the same familiar way, but is no longer certified.

Pat Whetham has been gardening organically since the mid-70s and joined the Genesee County Organic Farm and Garden Club in 1980. Upon the dissolution of the Federated Organic Clubs in 1986, she took over as editor of Michigan Organic News, which continued as a stand-alone publication. Pat was a founding board member of MOFFA and served as Vice Chair for a number of years. She was also active in Organic Growers of Michigan beginning in the mid-1980s, and served as Organic Certification Director from 1998 - 2000 and 2005 - 2006. She farms with her husband at Whetham Organic Farm, Inc. in Flushing, Michigan. The farm has been certified organic since 1988, raising mostly field crops but also organic vegetables. For the past 13 years the farm has also run a small CSA.