The Agriculture, food, and Human Values Society encompasses individual and institutional members from disciplines that range from agricultural production and the rural social sciences to nutrition policy and the humanities. The AFHVS was formed in 1987 to promote the study of values issues associated with the production, consumption, and distribution of food, fiber, and natural resources. The Society sponsors publication of Agriculture and Human Values, which is a refereed journal published quarterly. The journal averages 96 81/2x 11 pages per issue and covers a wide range of topics and issues. At least once a year special issues on announced themes are planned. Subscription to the journal is included in the annual membership fee. Since World War II, agricultural production systems and food consumption patterns have undergone astonishing changes. Agricultural research has expanded the productive capacity of the world’s farms tremendously, but this expansion has raised questions about the sustainability of modern practices, about the criteria for judging risks and benefits of chemical and biological technologies, about the poor’s entitlements to food production in developing countries, and about who will farm in the future and how. The Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society is an organization of professionals dedicated to an open and free discussion of these issues, and to an understanding of the values that underlie alternative visions of the food and agricultural systems.
The Society also organizes an annual professional meeting and coordinates activities and meetings with other organization.
The above is quoted from our Society membership form. In what follows I will try to do four things. First I will sketch out how the Society got started, beginning with its 1987 organizational meeting. Then I will briefly describe where it has got to by now and what has gone on enroute to it current status in 2002. Then I will try to describe some of the historical roots of the Society undefined how it came into conception and what purposes it was originally conceived to serve. Finally, I will try to mention what I consider to be some goals that this group might pursue in the future and what some of the obstacles to achieving these goals might be.
1. Organizing Meeting
The Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society (AFHVS) held it organizational meeting, in conjunction with a conference on the theme “Agriculture, Food, and Human Values: Tradition and Change,” in Orlando , FL on October 7-9, 1987. Nearly 100 persons from across the country and representing a wide variety of fields and disciplines attended, and over 40 papers were presented. The business meeting was presided over by Paul Thompson (Texas A&M-Philosophy) and was well attended. The first order of business was to choose the name of the Society. The name that was originally proposed, “Agriculture and Human Values” (which reflected the name of the journal), was changed to include “food” in order to better represent the range of interests and backgrounds of those attending the meeting.
The second order of business was the ratification of the provisional constitution and by-laws. This document was developed by a committee chaired by Charles Blatz (University of Toledo-Philosophy). In preparing this provisional document, the committee secured copies of constitutions from a number of inter-disciplinary organizations, including the Association for Integrative Studies, the Economic History Association, the Association for Evolutionary Economics, the History of Science Society, the Society for the Social Studies of Science, the Western History Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society for Applied Anthropology, and the Institute for Alternative Agriculture. The provisional constitution was intended to govern the Society until a full slate of officers had been elected, who would then review the document and make final recommendations for its approval by the voting members of the Society.
The third order of business was the nomination of candidates for the various constitutional offices. Nominations were made by a nominating committee and were also taken from the floor, and an invitation for additional nominations by mail was also announced. The nominating process closed December 31, 1987. Officers were to serve until the next Society meeting and conference.
The fourth order of business was the election of an Interim Executive Secretary, who would conduct the election and preliminary business, and would serve until the elected Officer and Council appoint a new one.
The final business was to decide on a subsequent meeting time, to be held in conjunction with an international and interdisciplinary conference prior to the end of 1989.
Society members were identified as individual subscribers to the journal Agriculture and Human Values.
2. Subsequent action
The Interim Executive Secretary mailed a ballot to members on March 1, 1988 with a slate of officers. On July 5, the results were announced by mail. With over 50% of the electorate returning ballots, Lawrence Busch (MSU-Sociology) was elected president; Paul Thompson, Vice President; and Dorothy Blair (PSU-Nutrition), Frederick Buttel (Cornell-Rural Sociology), Kate Clancy (Syracuse-Nutrition), Glenn Johnson (MSU-Ag. Econ.), William Lacy (Univ. of Kentucky-Sociology), Patrick Madden (PSU-Ag. Econ.), Bonnie McCay (Rutgers-Anthropology/Ecology), and Carolyn Sachs (PSU-Rural Sociology) were elected Council members; H. O. Kunkel , Texas A&M-Animal Sciences), Ken Dahlberg (Western Michigan University-Political Science), runners-up in the election for president and vice-president were also to be members of the Council. These officers would serve until replaced at the 1991 meetings.
In January, 1989, it was decided to accept an invitation from John Miller, Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock to host the second meeting, and the Little Rock Hilton Inn was chosen for the second meeting site. The meeting was held Nov. 1-4, and the conference theme was “The Place of Values in Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Systems.” The meeting was attended by 63 registrants and 47 presentations were made.
In early 1990, an invitation by the Agroecology Program of the University of California at Santa Cruz to host the 1991 meetings was accepted and Asilomar was selected to be the conference site. The third meeting and conference of the Society was held at the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove , CA on May 10-12, 1991. The conference theme was “Varieties of Sustainability. Reflecting on Ethics, Environment, and Economic Equity.” 107 presentations were made and 232 people attended. Officers for 1991-1992 were installed. 1991-1992. Pres.: Carolyn Sachs; Vice President: Bill Lacy (PSU-Sociology); Council Members: Pat Allen (Sociology-UC, Santa Cruz); Dorothy Blair; Alessandro Bonanno (Univ. of Missouri-Columbia-Rural Sociology); Frederick Buttel; Ken Dahlberg; Kathryn George(Univ. of Idaho-Philosophy); and Janet Poppendieck (Hunter College-Sociology).
The fourth meeting was held in conjunction with the Association for the Study of Food and Society at Michigan State University , June 4-7, 1992. The conference theme was “Diversity in Food, Agriculture, Nutrition, and Environment.” There were 98 presenters and 111 registered participants. Richard Haynes was appointed to a three-year term as Executive Secretary and the following officers were installed: Pres.: Bill Lacy; Vice President: Gary Comstock (Iowa State Univ.-Philosophy & Religion); Council Members: Kate Clancy; Steve Stevenson (Univ. of Wisconsin-Ag. Econ.); Don Vietor (Texas A&M-Soil and Crop Sciences); Dorothy Blair; Pat Allen; Kathryn George; Janet Poppendieck; Ken Dahlberg; Alessandro Bonanno. Ken Dahlberg was appointed to chair a committee to consider constitutional revisions. The Council approved the recommended changes and a copy of the revised document was mailed out to all members with the 1993 ballots in the Spring of 1993. The changes were adopted at the 1993 business meeting, June 5 at Penn State University . One change was to elect only a vice president, who would succeed the following year to the presidency. All Council members were elected for three-year terms, with three new members elected each year.
Prior to 1991, society membership was automatically awarded to all individual journal subscribers. However, beginning in 1991 and continuing through 1992, a membership fee of $10 was added to the subscription price of the journal, making membership optional. The membership fell from 630 in 1990 to 56 in 1991 and rose to 105 in 1992. To increase membership, it was decided to increase the individual subscription price of the journal from $25 (1989 and 1990) to $30 in 1993. ( During its first three years undefined 1984-1986 undefinedAgriculture and Human Values was fully subsidized by a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and mailed to approximately 5,000 individuals and institutions free of charge. Starting in 1987 the journal was supported primarily by 680 subscribers in 1987 and 700 in 1988. The subscription fees were $20 for individuals and $30 for institutions.) A membership fee of $10 was added to the subscription price, but then members were given a $5 discount in their subscription price. This meant that members were paying a total of $35 while non-members were paying $30 for subscriptions. Perhaps as a result of this small incentive, membership increased to 201 in 1993, but fell to 162 for 1994, and then rose to 181 in 1995. The membership since then has hovered around the 200 mark.
As mentioned above, the 1993 meetings were held at Penn State University, June 3-6, with “Environment, Culture, and Food Equity” as the conference theme, and they were held jointly for the second time with the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS), as all subsequent meetings to date have been. There were 85 presentations made and 139 attending. The officers for 1993-1994 were the following: Pres. Gary Comstock; Vice-President: Jeff Burkhardt; Council Members: Laura DeLind (MSU-Anthropology); Duane Ford (Northeast Missouri State-Agronomy); Ken Dahlberg; Don Vietor; Steve Stevenson; Pat Allen; Dorothy Blair; Alessandro Bonanno; Janet Poppendieck.
The 1994 meetings were held at the Westward Look Resort in Tucson , June 9-12. The conference theme was “Cuisine, Agriculture and Social Change.” There were 99 registrants for the conference and about the same number of presenters. At these meetings, we continued a practice informally started the year before. On the Friday of the meetings, each society held their own Council/Board meetings. Then on Saturday, each society held its general business meeting. Then on the last day the societies held a joint Council-Board meeting to discuss future plans, including the site for future meetings. At the joint meeting in Tucson it was formally recognized that the societies would alternate as hosts, and the host’s preference for the future site would raise a presumption for that site. ASFS had been the host for the Tucson meeting, with Ann Tinsely as head of local arrangements. AFHVS raised the presumption at the Penn State meetings that we would meet at an “historically Black university” in 1995. Tuskegee formally extended an invitation to the societies to hold their 1995 meetings at Tuskegee , and this was accepted. A decision was also made at the Tucson joint meeting to hold the 1996 meetings in St. Louis in conjunction with the Food Choice group at the University of St. Louis campus. Bill Hart was appointed local arrangement chair and program committee chair. AFHVS officers for 1994-1995 were the following: Pres.: Jeff Burkhardt; Vice-President: Kate Clancy; Council Members: Rockfeler Herisse (MSU-Ag. Education); Daniele Soleri ( University of California , Santa Barbara-Life Sciences); Gerry Walter (University of Illinois-Ag. Communication); Steve Stevenson; Don Vietor; Duane Ford; Laura DeLind; Ken Dahlberg.
At the Tucson joint board meeting it was also decided that announcing a conference theme appeared to some to be overly restrictive and might function to discourage some potential presenters, so the practice would be eliminated.
The 1995 joint meetings were held at Tuskegee University June 8-11. There were over 60 presenters and 99 registered participants. The 1996 annual meeting of ASFS and AFHVS was June 6-9 at St. Louis University , St. Louis , Mo. Bill Hart is local arrangements chair. Program committee members include Alex McIntosh and Paul Thompson. An invitation from the University of Wisconsin for 1997 was accepted, and Asilomar was agreed on for the 1998 site, with ASFS as the host.
The 1996 meetings were held at in ST. Louis . Newley elected society officers are Vice-president -- Laura DeLind; Council (1996-1999) -- Jane Adams, Aaron Harp, Connie Price.
Nominations committee includes Joan Gussow (chair), Jane Adams and Jeff Burkhardt
The 1997 meetings were held at the University of Wisconsin in Madison . Around 350 people attended.
Incoming council members for the 1997-2000 term were Ken Dahlberg, Paul Thompson and Jennifer Wilkins. Vice-president for 1997-1998 was Fred Buttel. Members thanked the committee. Thompson and Wilkins were named to the nominations committee. Gussow remained as chair.
The 1998 meetings were held at the Golden Gate Holiday Inn in San Francisco . Newley elected officers are Ken Dalhberg, VP, Mora Campbell, Kate, Clancy, and John Hendrickson, Council members.
The 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003 meetings were held, respectively, in Toronto at Ryerson University , New York at NYU, Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota. , Chicago and Loyola, and Austin , TX (approximately 206 attending). The 2004 meeting was held at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park , NY in early June, with approximately 245 registered participants. The 2005 meetings were held in Portland , OR , with approximately 300 attending, and the 2006 meeting at Boston University , with 367 attending. The 2007 meetings were held at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, the 2008 meetings in New Orleans, the 2009 meetings at Penn State, the 2010 meetings at Indiana University, and the 2011 meetings at the University of Montana. The 2012 meetings will be in NYC.
3. AFHVS’s historical roots
The idea of an interdisciplinary networking organization grew out of a meeting of the various directors of the programs that the W. K. Kellogg Foundation had funded to help promote agricultural literacy for students at the college level. The meeting was held in Kansas City in 1985 in conjunction with a conference that the Kansas State University Agriculture and Liberal Arts Program sponsored for the faculty who planned to participate in that program. The directors present at this meeting represented a second round of funding by the Foundation of agricultural literacy programs. They were Dean Gerald Duff, Projector Director of the Rhodes College Food for Thought Program; Dr. Joseph Hagan, Co-Director of the University of Wyoming Program; Dr. Kenneth L. Larson, Assoc. Dean of Agriculture at Iowa State; Dr. Gary Nabhan, Office of Arid Lands Studies at the University of Arizona, Dr. Christopher M. Sieverdes, Dept. of Sociology at Clemson; Dr. William Lacy, Dept. of Sociology, University of Kentucky; Dr. Paul Thompson, Dept. of Philosophy, Texas A&M; and Dr. W. B. Toole, III, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at North Carolina State. I was present in my capacity as formal program evaluator for the Kansas State University Program. The Foundation had previously brought together directors of programs from an earlier round of funding. An on-going theme of these program director meetings was how to keep the Kellogg funded initiatives alive once Kellogg funding dried up. Most of these programs were funded for a period of between 2 and 3 years. Hence networking among the programs was an important theme. Those present at this meeting resolved to try to meet again in order to develop a proposal to the Foundation to fund some networking initiatives, such as the formation of a formal society. This second meeting was held in Gainesville , FL in February, 1986. A proposal to Kellogg for $35,000 was developed out of this meeting to hold a conference and society organizing meeting in early 1987, but it did not succeed in getting funded. In anticipation of the 1987 meeting, the following assignments were made: Paul Thompson was appointed Chair of the Steering Committee, Bill Lacy was selected as Chair of the nominations committee, Charlie Blatz (University of Wyoming) was selected to be chair of the Constitution and By-Laws Committee, and Richard Haynes and Jeff Burkhardt (University of Florida) and Charles Reagan and Barrie Mitchie (Kansas State University) were appointed program chairs for the conference.
When Kellogg did not agree to fund the group’s plans, the conference and organizational meeting was delayed until the Fall of 1987, but the Foundation did agree to hold another directors conference in conjunction with this meeting.
Prior to the 1985 Kansas City meeting, the Kellogg Foundation had funded not only what I referred to above as “a second round of funding of agricultural literacy programs, but an earlier round that started as early as 1976. Between 1976 and 1981, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation gave grants to 10 private liberal arts colleges to initiate “agriculture in the liberal arts curriculum” programs. The colleges were Adrian College (MI), Briar Cliff College (IA), Coe College (IA), Cornell College (IA), Earlham College (IN), Grinell College (IA), Luther College (IA), Pomona College (CA), Williams College (MA), and Wilmington College (OH). The Foundation’s alleged rationale for funding these programs was to increase awareness among liberal arts students of the significance of agriculture in the Nation’s life. The target group were regarded as future leaders and potential agricultural policy makers. The initiatives were to enlighten these future leaders about the issues they must consider in developing good agricultural policy. In 1981, the Foundation extended its interests from Carnegie Type 1 private liberal arts colleges to the land-grant institution by giving a grant to the University of Florida to initiate a three-year program to develop a model for land-grant universities for introducing agricultural topics into the liberal arts. It was called the “Humanities and Agriculture Program” (HAP). Since the UF program was designed and administered by a philosopher (Richard Haynes), the focus tended to be on the interface between the humanities and the agricultural disciplines and the message was forged that not only are liberal arts people illiterate about agricultural issues, but so are many academics within the agricultural disciplines.
An essential part of the UF program was aimed at faculty development. While its alleged goal was to introduce curricular changes in the liberal arts curriculum by introducing more agricultural topics, the director and advisors of the UF program argued that two things were necessary to achieve the desired curricular changes. One was that faculty must be educated away from narrow disciplinary models of their curricula to a broader interdisciplinary approach and that one important route to take towards this end was to make liberal arts faculty, especially in the humanities and social sciences, aware that they had a contribution to make out of the own disciplines to promoting agricultural literacy. Instead of thinking of those in the agricultural disciplines as the educators of liberal arts faculty, we argued that those in the agricultural disciplines had much to learn from liberal arts faculty about agricultural issues. As this message began to take hold, a critique of contemporary, industrial-based agricultural practices was born.
The second requirement for faculty development in this area was that interdisciplinary teaching be reinforced by interdisciplinary research. We developed the argument that there were few fora to publish research in this interface area so that the general Kellogg goals would best be achieved by helping to initiate such a forum. In 1983, the Foundation gave the University of Florida Humanities and Agriculture Program $52,000 to start the journal-newsletter Agriculture and Human Values, and then funded it for two additional years at about $75,000 per year.
Between 1982-1984 the Kellogg Foundation hosted several networking workshops for administrators of the various agriculture and liberal arts programs. Among the themes were sharing experiences and how to keep the programs going after Kellogg funding expired. Out of one of these meetings a proposal was developed to share our experiences with other institutions, and so Gordon Douglass, Director of the Pomona College Program secured funding to edit a collection of essays from each of the eleven program directors about their programs so that others could learn from them. The collection was published by the Foundation in 1985 under the title Cultivating Agricultural Literacy: Challenge for the Liberal Arts. In his own program at Pomona , Douglass continually stressed the theme of agricultural sustainability, and in his conversations with Foundation officers argued that sustainability was one of the key issues that contemporary agricultural policy had to address. Douglass stressed this theme in the conferences that he organized as part of the Pomona agricultural literacy program, and he subsequently edited a collection of conference papers on this theme that is now considered to be one of the classics on the topic of broadening the conception of sustainability from a purely technical one to a broader social issue. By 1984, Foundation officers seemed to have accepted the theme that both Douglass and the UF program had developed: agriculture had much to learn from those on the outside, and a crack in the “Island Empire” began to appear.
In the Spring of 1982, as part of an effort to develop this broader conception of agricultural literacy, UF’s HAP hosted a planning workshop to identify agricultural issues and topics and to plan for a fall national conference on the general theme, “Agriculture, Change and Human Values.” Attending and presenting were the following: Fred Buttel; Stan Dundon (Univ. of Delaware-Philosopher); Don Hadwiger (Iowa State-Political Science); Susan Griffin; Wes Jackson, Joseph Brooks (Emergency Land Fund, Atlanta); Glenn Johnson; Masuma Downie; Tom Regan (North Carolina State-Philosophy); Neil Sampson (National Association of Conservation Districts); Nancy Gonzalez (University of Maryland-Anthropology); Will Aiken (Chatham College-Philosophy); Joseph Collins (Institute for Food and Development Policy); and Sally Hacker (Oregon State-Sociology). This group working with UF faculty helped identify a range of issues that defined what we started to call the field of “agricultural ethics.”
The Fall, 1982 National Conference was also hosted by the University of Florida HAP and supplementary funds to help support it were given by the Kellogg Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Florida Endowment for the Humanities, and the University of Florida Division of Sponsored Research. The number of registered participants was 129, while there were 77 presenters. The papers from this conference were subsequently published in a 2-volume set of proceedings. This conference served several important purposes. In 1981, the University of Delaware Center for the Study of Values hosted a major conference on the theme “Ethical Issues in Agribusiness.” This conference served to draw the attention of many philosophers to the fact that agriculture was an untapped area of ethical concern. The UF 1982 conference drew on this audience but served to begin to bring this message home to people in agriculture. But it also began to create an aura of dialogue between agricultural insiders and its external critics that has continued to develop to this day.
In 1983, the University of Florida received a grant to host a National Dissemination Conference designed to disseminate what had been learned by the 11 programs to other institutions. The conference took place in early January, 1984. Papers from the 1982 Agriculture, Change, and Human Values conference were published and distributed to conferences attendees. More than 430 representatives from 63 land-grant universities and 57 private liberal arts colleges attended this 3-day conference, and Kellogg announced plans to fund other programs. Between 1984-1985 Kellogg began its second round of funding, helping to initiate 22 additional programs: for a total of 18 land-grant universities and 15 private liberal arts colleges.
4. AFHVS’s future
In our 1986 proposal to the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to provide funding for an organizing conference to start the Society, we described the purpose of the Society in this way:
"The Society will provide a support network for people in the liberal arts and the agricultural sciences disciplines who are interested in cross-disciplinary research, scholarship, and curriculum development that is aimed at a broader understanding of the social and political implications of agricultural policies and practices. The formation of this organization will facilitate the exchange of information among all of those currently involved in the agriculture and liberal arts programs that the Kellogg Foundation has assisted."
Twenty-two years later, we are in a position to look backward and see that this Society has more than lived up to its promises as an organization that supports people working both at the margins and on the cutting edge of research, scholarship, and action in the academic fields that it has helped bridge. Our strength both as an organization and as a publishing venture have remained steady. In the past we have sought alliances and association with other groups who share similar aims, and will continue to do so in the future. At the same time, we have resisted being swallowed up by larger organizations that have sometimes wooed us to share meeting times. Beside holding steady, what else can we do as an organization? Where do we want to be five years down the road? Our executive committee has already undertaken the task of answering these question, and we intend to struggle with them over the next year. Among the suggestions about how we might expand what we have done are the following two promising items. 1) In addition to a national annual meeting, hold smaller regional meetings. 2) Conduct faculty development workshops on site for institutions who want to increase awareness about agriculture and food systems issues among their faculty. We intend to explore both of these options.
But I think it is important at this point to sound a note of caution about the obstacles that, as a trans-disciplinary group, we will continue to struggle against. For many of us whose careers are tied up within disciplinary boundaries, our Society will represent an “added expense,” something that must take a back seat to our disciplinary publications, associations, and meetings. I think that our greatest ally in struggling against this on-going obstacle is the intimacy, openness, and excitement that our meetings generate. For those who are fatigued by the competitiveness and narrowness of our own disciplines, the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society will continue to provide an opportunity for stimulating dialogue without compromising any of the values of traditional scholarship that many of us still hold.
* Richard P. Haynes, scholar, visionary, mentor and friend, was responsible for initiating the national conversation that led to the creation of the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society and its journal, Agriculture and Human Values. Richard served as executive secretary of AFHVS (original called AHVS) from its founding in 1986 until 2013. He was also the editor-in-chief of Agriculture and Human Values from its inception in 1984 until 2004. His vision and his dedication to bringing ethical issues into the study and practice of agriculture and the food system have captured the hearts and minds of literally thousands of scholars, nationally and internationally.