Borlaug Connection to Oregon

Posted on: May 8th, 2014

by Marie Bowers

By: Arwen McGilvra

National Ag Day March 25, 2014 coincided with the celebration of Dr. Norman Borlaug’s (1914-2009) 100th Birthday. Online this celebration was known as #Borlaug100. Offline this included the Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security in Obregon Mexico.

“Through applied breeding work with Mexican farmers and scientists, Dr. Borlaug, who passed away in September 2009, developed wheat varieties and farming practices that were adopted throughout the developing world last century, saving hundreds of millions from starvation and contributing to decades of historically low food prices. Borlaug received the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for those achievements, and is one of only six people to have won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and the Nobel Peace Prize.”
via borlaug100.org

Oregon Women for Agriculture (OWA) has a history with Dr. Borlaug as can be seen in the letter (included) from November 1973. Oregon Women for Agriculture helped bring Dr. Borlaug to Oregon in 1977, “Belonging to organizations interested in better public relations between agriculture and the general public- Oregon Women for Agriculture, Oregon Farm Bureau and American Agri-Women- the small group was granted an opportunity to personally meet with Dr. Borlaug and Dr. Anderson, as well as the OSU CIMMYT team.” The Times July 14, 1977.

The article goes on to say what was as true in 1977 as it is today, “As a pioneer in the race to feed a hungry world, Dr. Borlaug expressed some of his concerns over attacks from environmentalists, who lack the knowledge and background, to be placing restrictions on agriculture. Education is necessary he said, and called for better scientific education of teachers.”
1977 Dr. Borlaug (left) admiring a gift of freshly-picked Oregon raspberries, presented by Ms. Eunice Endicott of Eugene (in the foreground, right.) In the middle is Liz VanLeeuwen OWA president 1973-1975

1977 Dr. Borlaug (left) admiring a gift of freshly picked Oregon raspberries, presented by Ms. Eunice Endicott of Eugene (in the foreground, right.) In the middle is Liz VanLeeuwen, OWA president 1973-1975

Previously in April 1974 OWA and Oregon State University (OSU) faculty Dr. Warren Kronstad helped organize a trip of members, legislators, extension personal and wheat commission representatives (more than 50 people total from Oregon and Washington) to the CIMMYT station in Obregon Mexico for a tour during their annual field days. The transcript of a radio news broadcast of the visit reports “One of the most impressive things to me was the absolute spirit of dedication and team work unconsciously displayed by these highly educated plant breeders; and the meticulous, methodical, tedious record keeping system that is essential to such a large-scale experimental program to develop high yielding, more protein content and greater disease resistance in these grains.” Liz VanLeeuwen on the KWIL Mid-Valley Farm Report May 3, 1974.

Again in 1980 OWA was there when Dr. Borlaug was the speaker for the OSU Ag Honors Dinner. Notes taken that night on the back of the program talk about how the total yield in 1970 would have taken double the land if we had still been using 1940’s technology.

1980 Dr. Borlaug meeting Liz VanLeeuwen and granddaughter Arwen McGilvra (then 2 years old) at OSU.

1980 Dr. Borlaug meeting Liz VanLeeuwen and granddaughter Arwen McGilvra (then 2 years old) at OSU.

The Corvallis Gazette Times quoted Dr. Borlaug, “We have lost contact with the masses in the last 40 years,’ he said,’There is nothing that compares with the importance of agriculture and food production.”

“Without a political and technological commitment to agriculture, the world will go hungry.” Corvallis Gazzette Times March 25, 1980 (Dr. Borlaug’s 66th birthday.) This is the message that National Agriculture Day is still working to tell people.

Authors Note: This bit of our history might have been forgotten if it were not for those like my Grandmother who kept the letters, photos, articles, and other pieces of interest. I rescued them from the file in her basement and am working on making sure they are digitally saved. Our history is important, save it because you never know when it will come around again.
1973 Letter from Dr. Borlaug to Oregon Women for Agriculture

1973 Letter from Dr. Borlaug to Oregon Women for Agriculture

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