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  • Writer's pictureAnneliese Abbott

Year-End THANKSgiving: 2023 in Review

Four Season Farm
Fields and greenhouses at Four Season Farm, August 2023

If, like me, you get emails from nonprofit organizations, your inbox is probably filling up this week with calls for year-end giving. But don’t worry—this isn’t one of them. Instead, I’m taking this last week of 2023 to look back with THANKSgiving at all the cool things that have happened with my organic history research this year.


In June, Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems published my article “Organic information: influential authors and organizations in the Midwestern and Northeastern United States organic and sustainable agriculture community.” This article gives the detailed results of the survey I did for my master’s research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition to cool findings like the fact that Eliot Coleman is the most influential author in the Northeast and Midwest, I was able to use the information people gave in the survey as a springboard for my oral history project.


In July, I launched my website, The purpose of this website is to help preserve and spread the history of organic farming by making more of my writing and oral history interviews immediately available to the public. I’ve put up the transcripts of over 40 oral history interviews and will continue to add more. Plus, I’ve included behind-the-scenes information on my Malabar Farm book, some of the articles I published in Acres U.S.A. from 2018-2022, and blog posts answering some of the questions that people often ask me about my research.


In August, my sister and I were able to visit Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch at Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine. Eliot gave us an in-depth tour of his farm and extensive organic agriculture library and even let us camp on his farm for the night. We also toured the next-door Good Life Center, the Maine homestead of Helen and Scott Nearing that was a hub for the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s.


Starting in October, I began this season’s round of oral history interviews. This fall, I interviewed Sarah Yoder, whose mother baked bread for Walnut Acres; Karl Hakanson, who has been involved with organic farming and grazing networks in Minnesota and Wisconsin; Jim Riddle, who grew organic fruit in Wisconsin and was involved in organic inspection and policy; Brad Wilson, who has been involved with farm justice and sustainable agriculture work in Iowa; Tim Redmond, one of the founders of Eden Foods in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Harriet Behar, an organic farmer and advocate in Wisconsin; Steven McFadden, a journalist who has written about the history of CSAs; Bob Scowcroft, a California advocate for organic agriculture; Mark Retzloff, the founder of Horizon Organics and Aurora Organic Dairy; and William Bryan, who started the West Virginia University organic research farm.


And between interviews, I read through old issues of Organic Gardening and Farming magazine from the 1960s and 1970s, along with books by important organic influencers during that period like Ruth Stout and Euell Gibbons.


As the New Year begins, I’m looking forward to doing more oral history interviews and more writing. If you have any suggestions for interview candidates or topics that you’d like to see on this blog, let me know! I hope to be able to share lots more organic history with you in 2024.

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