Duesing, Bill (interviewee)
Conversation with Bill Duesing of Oxford, Conn., a Yale graduate and leader in the Connecticut branch of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. Start in organic agriculture as member of an environmental art group at Yale; late 1971 found land near Oxford and learned of first organic farming meeting in Vermont, attended first conference at High Mowing, Samuel Kaymen's workshop, and other conferences (00:00:16); Hippie commune was origin of his interest: "cannabis is the gateway to organic agriculture" (00:03:27); relationship to conventional agriculture: always had an environmental interest ; NOFA started in part because conventional establishment was not helping those who wished to grow organically; also interested in antinuclear movement and in promoting solar energy; Connecticut NOFA started out of his work as an extension agent promoting solar energy and as a way of saving energy (00:05:38); began work during Reagan years to connect teachers with UConn to develop a curriculum on food and energy and eventually five courses that led to the first charter school in New Haven (00:09:30); lifestyle is pretty simple, which seems "a really rich way to life," and found people in NOFA who felt the same about the richness of working with nature; still grows his own food and sells some to close community, growing what he likes (onions, garlic, etc.) (00:11:18); NOFA has kept Duesing involved in growing food and people who care about the land, work on NOFA Interstate Council, the Natural Farmer, the conferences; president of CT NOFA and then NOFA in 1991, and on board until 2000-2001; (00:13:30); Connecticut NOFA land care program came after meeting a woman landscape designer who was organically minded and joined NOFA board; 1990 NOFA decided to do a organic landscape workshop at the conference; passed along to Ecological Landscape Association in 1991-1992, who have some differences in approach over use of pesticides; easier to make a living landscaping environmentally than farming; late 1990s, Organic Land Care Program began, developed standards and then a five-day course in 2001 (00:15:45); beginnings of organic land care and organic growing standards and certification; importance of understanding the biodiversity of larger system surrounding the farm and organic care of the land (00:19:45); growth of NOFA over the years; rather than one big organization, it has grown into myriad smaller organizations like farmers' markets, agricultural commissions, "agriculture is one of our most powerful tools for making social change" (00:21:47); growth of organic agriculture has been national in scope, not merely New England, with a lot of vibrancy though a few yeas behind NOFA in getting started, same mix of people including those interest in farming, landscape, energy (00:24:27); keeping relevance in NOFA; older generation of organic farmers came from cities, younger people entering agriculture share the basic interest in growing food (00:26:00); memories of the enthusiasm of the early days and the long term view they took of the issues; fears of some for the future relation of people with food and realizing the value and beauty of what the earth can do (00:28:58); USDA organic standards vs. NOFA's original vision for standards; USDA standards made it possible to have as much organic food available in supermarkets as we have, but has missed some of the core ideas about environmental impact, fair labor, etc.; it's a bit of an unsustainable facade built on cheap energy and long distance transport: need agroecological vision and methods with an emphasis on small scale and local (00:31:52); culture of the first generation of organic farmers and their urban origins that may have led them to live on the land, lure of living on the land in connection with nature; a piece of his personal connection was taking acid, which opened eyes in terms of the beauty of nature and seeing the connections, making it hard to go back to wanting to work in an office (00:36:45).