I sent this email to both my parents today and I am posting it and their responses (I am reading a lot about the connection between the environmental movement, technology and agriculture and how these have affected the social movement in regards to food that we see happening now):
How much did the issues of pesticides and chemicals with farming come up in your life during the 1970s and 80s?
Do you remember being concerned about these things or hearing much about 'organics' or 'organic farming'?
A cogent question.
Once in college, mid-60's, I was vaguely aware or Carson's "Silent Spring." A major breakthrough, however, was the first Earth Day in 1970, from that point on one's consciousness had been raised to all sort of infractions. At that time, I first became aware of the poisoning of our rivers and dangers of agricultural runoff. One of the first rivers to "die" in MN was the Minnesota which ran just outside of Sleepy Eye and was totally killed by farm pesticides, your pharmacist grandfather confirmed this for me. I also remember having a faculty room argument circa 1975 with a math teacher who also farmed concerning this issue. He maintained that the biological make up of the plant mitigated the chemicals (?). Organic farming expanded in response and had previously been reference indirectly by people aware that home grown tasted better than store purchased. Again, the Carson book and social questioning of the late 60's and 70's was huge in raising personal awareness.
The use of farm pesticides ( to increase yield) was deployed hand in hand with the increased use of mechanized farming during the demands of WWI and into the twenties. Yield ran far ahead of consumption during the twenties and threw the agricultural sector into economic chaos before the crash of 1929. Remember, the New Deal (Ag. Adjustment Act) paid farmers to plow up planted fields in 1933 and not to plant in subsequent years do to overproduction - pesticides a major player in increasing yield per acre.
Hope this helps.
Going back even earlier, I grew up with pesticides and chemicals being routinely used in farming and on our lawns. Grandpa Ray sold them at the drugstore and Uncle Ron did crop-dusting around the countryside as a job. I and everyone in our community was exposed to A LOT of these chemicals. I was a child, so I didn't have much of a reference point at that time. However, when I got to college and the whole "back to the land" movement began, there was much discussion about natural foods. We also linked the development of pesticides and other chemicals by big companies like Dow to chemical warfare, like napalm and Agent Orange. I protested with many other Macalester students against Honeywell because Mac had a lot of stock in Honeywell and most of us were not only against the war, but against the specific use of these terrible chemicals that caused deforestation, water pollution, and disease and death to people and animals.
I was highly aware of organic farming in the 70s and shopped at the earliest co-op in Minneapolis (Seward), Boulder, and in Brainerd once I lived there. I also helped start a paper recycling center with my philosophy students at BHS because of our concern about clear-cutting of forests and a paper shortage. All of these issues seemed to be linked in my mind because of the corporate approach to abuse of resources and the growth of agribusiness, etc.
Does that help?