The Organic Movement in Michigan
Maynard Kaufman interrupted his teaching career at Western Michigan University in 1973 with a half-time leave of absence from the classroom to supervise a living-learning School of Homesteading on his 160 acre farm near Bangor, Michigan. This led directly to his participation in Organic Growers of Michigan (OGM) which also began meeting in 1973, and his farm was one of the first six in Michigan to be certified organic. He continued to be active in the organic movement for the next 40 years, and when Organic Growers of Michigan was in its doldrums he played a leading role in the organization of Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance (MOFFA) in the early 1990s.
Julia Christianson had volunteered to collect and organize the written materials of OGM and MOFFA and prepare them to be archived—thus she also had access to the history of the organic movement. She came across an outline for the book that Maynard had prepared several years ago and offered to help bring it to publication. MOFFA is the publisher, and profits from the book will go to support MOFFA's work.
The 19 chapters in the book encompass a wide variety of information: historical summaries of the major organic organizations, reports on various organic activities, and essays about the past, present and future of organic farming. They provide a record of both successes and failures, triumphs and tragedies, such as the fatal encounter of OGM with the Federal program for organic certification.
When history is created on the ground by ordinary people, scattered recollections amplify the difficulty of telling their story. Thus we are fortunate that Michigan’s organic pioneers, who were some of the nation’s first to join in a formal grouping, have left a record in good hands, and even more fortunate that some people who are invested in its history have assembled this book.
— Chris Walters in Acres Magazine, December 2017
The Organic Movement in Michigan provides us with an excellent summary of how the organic movement evolved, on the farm, in our universities, and our communities, and it also reminds us of some of our current and future challenges. Very valuable. Other states and bioregions should consider publishing similar stories.
— Frederick Kirschenmann, author of Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays From a Farmer Philosopher
Perhaps the best documented history of The Organic Movement generally comes out of Michigan. The writers—practitioners beginning in the early 70s—have bothered to write a comprehensive history of the local, organic, community supported story that de facto can serve as a primer for other states less far along. Sharing of ideas has long been a way of life for the movement so the already seasoned are sure to gain from a reading of this as well.
— Wes Jackson, President Emeritus of The Land Institute and author of several books, including New Roots for Agriculture,
Told in the voices of the people who lived it, loved it, and shared its successes and disappointments, The Organic Movement in Michigan will deepen your respect for those who have toiled against great odds to spread the organic way of life. This compilation constitutes an essential contribution to the history of the broader organic movement in the United States and worldwide.
The Organic Movement in Michigan captures an important and often overlooked piece of the organic story by documenting the efforts of Michigan farmers and activists who toiled for decades to create a more sustainable agriculture system. With many chapters written by central players in the movement, readers can learn directly from those on the front lines of the organic effort. This book makes a unique contribution to our understanding of the rich history of the organic movement in the United States.
— Brian K. Obach, Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at New Paltz, and author of
Told in doer’s voices, The Organic Movement in Michigan, being invaluable history is thus a realist’s guidebook to a likely difficult but possible, locally engaged, post-petroleum, agrarian future. Well made, with fine introductory and concluding essays, a timeline, glossary, appendices, and an index that’s something of an honor roll of Michigan’s organic movement pioneers, it’s a salient account of policy debates, mutual support networks, successes and failures and above all, a return to the essentials of soil health and skillful husbandry.
Maynard Kaufman appeared on the Between the Lines program on WMUK radio in July talking about the book with Zinta Aistars. You can listen to the program online at Between the Lines: Eating Organic in Michigan. (The 9:00 minute selection consists of excerpts from the full 22:52 interview.)