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Remembering Roger Blobaum: A Pioneer, Leader, and Historian of the Organic Movement (1929-2023)

Published: Nov 2023
By: This tribute was prepared by Atina Diffley, editor and designer of the Roger Blobaum Organic History Website and former MOSES board member, and Faye Jones, original executive director of Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES, now Marbleseed)

Roger Blobaum, a visionary and trailblazer in the organic farming world, left an indelible mark on the agricultural landscape. His remarkable contributions encompassed a deep commitment to organic practices and advocacy. In this tribute, we celebrate the life and legacy of Roger, whose passion and dedication continue to inspire. As well as the essence of Roger, he was a loyal, passionate, precious friend and mentor to so many in the organic community.

A Pivotal Moment: In 1971, Roger Blobaum experienced a transformative moment that defined his life's purpose. His visit to Clarence Van Sant's organic farm in Grinnell, Iowa, left an enduring impression. Witnessing the vibrancy of the soil, crops, and livestock at this farm inspired him to embark on a lifelong journey as an agricultural consultant, activist, and leader in organic farming research, education, advocacy, and policymaking. Little did he know that this moment would set the stage for a remarkable legacy, preserved in the historical archive of the Roger Blobaum Organic History Website.

Roots of Awareness: Roger often attributed his connection to nature and organic principles to his childhood in southern Iowa during the Great Depression. Growing up on a diverse crop and livestock farm, he learned the value of the natural environment and the interdependence of all living beings. His upbringing instilled in him a profound respect for the earth and its resources.

A Life Enriched by Diverse Experiences: With academic qualifications in journalism, mass communication, and dispute resolution, Roger's career encompassed a wide range of experiences. From his days as an Associated Press political reporter to serving as a press secretary and legislative assistant for Senator Gaylord Nelson where he wrote the first DDT ban bill, to interviewing, photographing, and writing about Midwest organic farmers in the 1970s for Rodale publications, Roger played a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of environmental policy. His extensive travels, such as his visit to Chinese collectives during the Cultural Revolution, allowed him to witness millennium-old regenerative agricultural practices that further fueled his passion for sustainability.

Champion of Non-Profit Organizations: Roger was a tireless advocate for non-profit organizations, contributing his expertise to over thirty regional, national, and international organic and sustainable agriculture organizations. His fourteen-year tenure on the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES, now Marbleseed) board highlights his dedication to mentoring and nurturing new leaders.

Environmental Stewardship: Roger's work extended beyond domestic boundaries. He played a pivotal role in the International Organic Accreditation Services, served on the USDA's National Sustainable Agriculture Advisory Council, and was a founder and associate director of the World Sustainable Agriculture Association. His involvement in the Codex Alimentarius Food Labeling Committee allowed him to influence the development of international organic guidelines.

A Heart Rooted in the Midwest: Despite his extensive travels and contributions on a global scale, Roger's heart remained in the Midwest. His vision for MOSES Organic University, the Farmer-To-Farmer Mentoring Program, and the Organic Farmer of the Year Award all had their origins in the heartland.

A Legacy of Organic Research: Roger's impact extended to research as well. He played a pivotal role in developing and coordinating Ceres Trust programs that has awarded over $6 million in grants to land-grant university faculty and graduate student researchers.

Honorary Recognition: In 2013, Roger received the Honorary Recognition Award from the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, recognizing his lifetime contributions to sustainable agriculture.

A Historian's Legacy: Roger Blobaum was not only a pioneer but also a dedicated historian. Over the course of four decades, he diligently collected documents and materials from more than thirty-five state, regional, national, and international organizations, preserving the history of organic agriculture. The Wisconsin Historical Society Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Collection, established in 2012 with the support of the Ceres Trust, now houses Roger's collection and is accessible to the public.

The Roger Blobaum Organic History Website: Roger’s website offers a curated selection of documents from his extensive collection. We invite you to visit the website to explore the history of the organic movement, learn more about Roger's life, and share your memories and comments on his legacy. https://rogerblobaum.com/legacy/

Continuing Roger's Legacy: Roger Blobaum's life was a testament to the strength of one individual's passion and dedication to creating a better, more sustainable world. His influence on the organic movement and his unwavering commitment to environmental stewardship continue to inspire and guide us. Roger's legacy is a reminder that we all have the capacity to make a lasting impact on the world, just as he did.

Learn more about Roger’s legacy

Photo captions:

One: Roger Blobaum (far right), director of Americans for Safe Food Initiative, presenting signatures of 136,000 consumers who supported the 1990 Organic Production Act Bill to Senator Patrick Leahy

Two: Roger, at heart a farmer, hoeing on an organic farm. 2016

Three: Roger with elephant statue during first trip to China in 1975

Four: An excerpt from the Congressional Record: Senator Gaylord Nelson Introduces Legislation to Ban DDT. 1966 (full document available at www.rogerblobaum.com)

Five: Roger Blobaum sitting on a small tractor in China. 1975