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An Audio History of the Eco-Agriculture Movement

By the mid-1970s, ten years after the world was awakened by Rachel Carson’s landmark book, Silent Spring, it had become clear that the family farmer was being left behind for large, consolidated and industrialized agriculture systems. At the same time, by 1975, when the first recorded Eco-Agriculture Conference & Trade Show was held in Kansas City, Missouri, the historically strong legacy of family farming in the United States still held weight. What started waws an organized movement toward organic, and today, regenerative farming systems that built in annual meetings between the best farmers in the world, and talks by those farmers that fundamentally changed the way we think about growing our food.

Included below are nearly 20 hours of talks at the history-making Eco-Agriculture Conference and Trade Show, founded in 1975, which includes moments where:

  • The organic movement was first introduced;
  • Change in agriculture was connected with peaceful resolution and encouragement;
  • Biology and chemistry were introduced as the main players in soil health;
  • Climate change was first publicly identified as a threat to agriculture;
  • Human health and healthy soil are intimately connected;
  • Microbial life was introduced as the primary driver of root health;
  • and much, much more.


Charles Walters & Hugh Lovel: Renewable Energy & Agriculture

Original talk title: Fuel Alcohol

A sample clip from the 1975 talk by Charles Walters & Hugh Lovel.

Description: “The total farmer ought not have to buy his nitrogen,” began Charles Walters in the first-recorded talk in Eco-Ag Conference history back in 1975. “His soil system, his mix of technology, his knoweldge should see that he has an abundannt supply. We also hold that the eco-farmer should not have to buy his protein on a rigged market. With a natural nitrogen cycle working, and with a natural carbon cycle working, there is no reason he ought not grow his own protein. Tonight, I offer another premise. That the farmer should grow their own tractor fuel,” he transitioned. His talk, decades ahead of its time, tied the idea of renewable energy to the future of farming.

Historic context: Renewable energy was being discussed across the country as energy shortages in the 1970s, but it would be decades later before it became a reality for farmers. In this talk, Acres U.S.A. founder Charles Walters emphasized the need for farmers to own their own energy supply as a sign of independence, to look at solar and wind energy as a way to fuel the farm. Otherwise, what he saw was a dependence on globalized fuel trades that often created price volatililities that made the economics of family farming impossible. Hugh Lovel followed with real instruction on how to create alcohol-fueled farming machinery and systems.

Listen to the full historic talk:

1 hour, 2 minutes. The full audio clip from the 1975 talk by Charles Walters &. Hugh Lovel. They co-wrote Eco-Farm: An Acres U.S.A. Primer a few years later.


1980: Dr. Dan Skow: Connecting Food, Soil and Human Health

Original talk title: Reams Agriculture

A short clip from Dr. Dan Skow’s talk on the important research contributions from his teacher, Dr. Carey Reams, who along with others like Dr. William A. Albrecht, brought eco-agriculture into the mainstream in the 20th century.

Description: “I question everything I’m saying, to the Nth degree, time and time again, and I’ve finally proven to myself that there is something here, and something to it,” said Dr. Dan Skow in 1980 about the connection between healthy food and healthy humans and healthy soil, now called the soil-food-web. A student of the legendary agro-scientist Dr. Carey Reams, Dr. Dan Skow explains the science taught to him by his mentor, Dr. Carey Reams, and goes through refractometers and their role in determining food quality. Reams, who helped build the foundational science connecting food quality and human health, was in attendance.

Historic context: In 1980, we were moving back away from renewable energy industries in their infancy and back to big petroleum. The same sort of process occurred in agriculture, where a short-lived movement toward family farming and more organic food systems was replaced by massive farm consolidation, synthetic agriculture and a refusal to connect the dots between industrial agriculture and an increase in chronic diseases showing up around the developed world. Today, we now understand how our human addictions mimic nature’s addictions to synthetic inputs, and how the natural energy-flavor feedback loop is almost impossible to escape once it is artificially corrupted.

Listen to the full historic talk:

56 minutes. Dr. Skow will detail the contributions of Dr. Carey Reams, who early on set the path toward measuring soil health with common instrumentation like refractometers.