At OrganicEye we mourn the passing of a good friend, Roger Blobaum. I’m not sure who introduced us over 25 years ago, but he quickly became a mentor as Will Fantle and I launched The Cornucopia Institute and I began my career as an “organic industry watchdog.” 

Roger became our first formal policy advisor and a trusted friend. He never lost his vision of how the transformation of agriculture in this country could benefit society and those who till the soil. I was so proud that he personally invited me to witness his lifetime achievement award from the University of Wisconsin, which meant so much to him.

The remembrance below was written by two of his other longtime friends, Atina Diffley of Minnesota and Faye Jones, also here in Wisconsin.

Mark Kastel

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

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. But, first and foremost, Roger was a loyal, passionate, precious friend and mentor.

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 [Wisconsin] 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.

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.

This tribute was prepared by Atina Diffley, editor and designer of the Roger Blobaum Organic History Website, and Faye Jones, original executive director of Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES, now Marbleseed)His is full obituary can be found here.