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Center for Respect of Life and Environment (CRLE)
Programs & Services


Towards A New Production Ethic

Who is the Soul of Agriculture?

Supporters and Advisors

[Many of the initiators and earliest collaborators in the Soul of Agriculture project are on Soul's Advisory Board, others are listed after the Advisory Board. Particularly generous in its early support of Soul of Agriculture is the Center for Respect of Life and Environment and its parent organization, the Humane Society of the United States.]

The Advisory Board members of the Soul of Agriculture project are characteristic of the kind of people working with the project. The following thumbnail sketches give an idea of the breadth and talent of these advisors. Through these people, Soul is really a network of networks since most are tied to other farm-related, rural community or environmental groups.

Albert Medvitz, Farmer, Rio Vista, CA; Small Grains, Lamb, Sheep

Al is an Advisory Board member of the Small Farms program of the University of California, member of Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), District 3 Director of the Farm Bureau, a Harvard graduate and active in the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is valued for his intelligence, connections, and good humor. His involvement in Soul does not indicate any endorsement of Soul by the Farm Bureau. But as a basically "conventional" farmer, his perspective is valuable.

Br. David Andrews, CSC, National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC), Executive Director

NCRLC has been an active supporter from the beginning. Br. David tracks movements, organizations and conferences, especially those which are sponsored by religious groups, which impact on the survival of family farms and their communities. NCRLC is an effective network within the Catholic rural community groups in the Midwest, plains states, Texas and Washington.

C. Dean Freudenberger, Luther Seminary, Professor Emeritus

Active instigator of Soul, Dean represented the Lutheran communities of the Northwest. Since he has returned to California, Soul expects tol depend more on Pastor Mark Yackel-Juleen of the Rural Life and Ministry Education Center (Windom, MN).

Fred Kirschenmann, Farmer, Windsor, ND; Organic grain and live stock; Director of the Leopold Center, University of Iowa

As a Ph.D. (Philosophy, Univ. of Chicago) and former dean, he has intellectual credentials which give his reflections on farming a credibility in the academic community which complements his deep involvement in farming his 3000 acre organic operation in North Dakota.

Roger Blobaum, Washington D.C.; Agricultural Consultant

Roger was the first coordinator of Soul. His history of working for the cause of farmers in every imaginable kind of organization and for his current involvement in environmentally sensitive sustainable agriculture and organic farming makes him an invaluable resource to the project. Everybody loves him. But he also knows everybody and can direct me to good collaborators.

Cornelia Flora, Iowa State Universiry, Rural Sociology

Powerful scholar and leader in Rural Sociology, Cornelia is present or recent President of the Rural Sociology Society. She is a vibrant supporter of family farming and has written much which demonstrates the key role of sustainability in preserving family farming.

Gary Valen, formerly of The Humane Society of the U. S., Director of Sustainable Agriculture and first fiscal manager of Soul

HSUS offered this support due to their conviction that smaller, and especially environmentally sensitive, farms are far more able and likely to treat animals in a humane fashion. They know that only when such farms are successful will they be able to afford and continue such care of livestock.

John Bobbe, Farmer, Brussels, WI; National Farmers' Organization

Various officers of NFO, including their CEO, support Soul,but John is the best informed.

John Gerber, University of Massachusetts, formerly Director of Agricultural Extension

John, together with Elizabeth Bird (Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) have made Soul a concern of Consortium for Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (CSARE).

Margaret Mellon, Union of Concerned Scientists

Margaret is probably one of the best-known environmental policy analyst/advocates in the U.S. She is a long term supporter and advisor to Soul.

Judith Heffernan, Executive Director, Heartland Network for Town and Rural Ministries, Columbia, MO

Judith heads a rural Methodist ministry organization which covers the northern plains and on down to Oklahoma. She will assist us in getting her denominations input into the consensus formation.

Kate Clancy, Henry A. Wallace Institute of Alternative Agriculture

In addition to her current post and its network, Kate is a nutritionist, with extensive knowledge of direct marketing of farm products to consumers. The alternative agriculture movement is explicitly committed to environmentally sensitive ways of farming.

Joy Mench, Professor, Animal Science at University of California, Davis, and Director of the Center for Animal Welfare

Joy is well known for her solidly scientific approach to questions of farm animal welfare and has the confidence of those who really wish to secure humane treatment of animals in the context of their use as part of the human diet and as important to integrated farming systems.

Kathy Sikorski, Farmer, Willard, MT; Wheat and livestock

Kathy and her husband, Jerry, are active in the Northern Plains Resource Council. Their farm is an integrated operation with many conventional practices. She is able to network and relate well with environmentalists and shares their concerns while still using many conventional inputs. She is a good bridge person, since Soul is not intended to appeal exclusively to organic farmers and has no apriori conviction that there is no responsible use of agricultural chemicals.

Loni Kemp, Minnesota Project Senior Policy Analyst

Soul initiator and contact with Minnesota farm support groups. She is a real source of inspiration.

Melanie Adcock, Ecological Agriculture Program Director, Foundation for Deep Ecology

Vigorous supporter of Soul while she was a Vice President of the Humane Society of the U.S. She remains an enthusiastic supporter in her new position.

Michelle Miller, University of Wisconsin Pesticide Use and Risk Reduction Project

Soul initiator and one of the main sources of insights into the value of Soul work for forming K-12 curricular materials on the place of farming in America.

Paul Thompson, Purdue University, Joyce and Edward E. Brewer Distinguished Professor, and Chair of Applied Ethics

Paul is probably the country's best-known agricultural ethicist. His book, Spirit of the Soil, contained the initial inspiration that family farming needs to express its "soul" i.e., its basic values and ethics so that all will know what is at stake in the present crisis. He is particularly critical of the tendency for industrial scale farming to "externalize" the costs of environmental degradation which frequently accompany that scale of farming.

Ron Kroese, formerly St. Croix Valley Community Foundation, Executive Director

Long-term defender of sustainable of family farming, his current post mirrors one goal of the Soul project: coalitions of non-farming rural residents who wish to preserve farming and who use coalition building to achieve that end.

Shirley Sherrod, Executive Director, Community Alliances of Interdependent AgriCulture, Inc.

Community Alliances of Interdependent AgriCulture (CAIA). is a visionary group which shares Soul's concern that basic values and ethics should inform human organizational behavior more strongly. Shirley herself brings to us perspectives and networks from her former post, working with minority farmers as director of Southern Cooperatives.

Michael Fox, Senior Scholar, Bioethics, The Humane Society of the United States

Michael is an internationally renowned veterinarian and author of more than 40 books including several on animal husbandry and agriculture. He oversees farm-animal welfare issues within the HSUS.

Sr. Mary Tacheny, SSND, Center for Earth Spirituality

Sr. Mary has had years of experience as a teacher and is best known for leading a massive consultative/consensus forming process which resulted in a document on the values and ethics of family farming for heartland Catholic dioceses entitled Strangers and Guests (1980). She is a consummate facilitator and will also be able to assist us in forming curricular materials. She and associates have already organized two well attended ecumenical consultations on the Souldocument draft Creating a New Vision of Farming.

David Visher, Agricultural Consultant, Chair of Yolano Chapter of Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF)

David worked in the University of California's Small Farm program and in Vegetable Crops with UC Davis. He has already facilitated one Soul event and is available to coordinate the Great Central Valley Soul activities. As chapter head of CAFF, he has an extensive network of farmer friends.

Robert Welborn, Franktown, CO; Attorney, Farmer

Robert is the former Chairman of the Board for CRLE, the home of Soul and board member of HSUS. He is a vigorous supporter of Soul.

Bernard Evans, St. John's University, Collegeville, MN; Theological Ethics

Bernard teaches agricultural ethics from a theologically enriched viewpoint and has already led off one two-day ecumenical retreat on the Soul document.

John Hall, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI), Director

MFAI is one of the sponsoring groups behind Soul and John has been a supporter. MFAI has the potential of being a location for regional coordination of the Soul process.

Jose Montenegro, Director Rural Development Center, Salinas, CA

Jose is our principal connection to the farm-labor community at present. We are attempting to get additional contacts in the Great Central Valley (Sacramento and San Joachin Rivers) through the United Farm Workers. But the coastal farming regions (Mendocino to San Diego) employ thousands of workers. Salinas is central to this region.


Many of the advisors listed above served generously and provided inspiration in the initial stages of Soul when they served on the original Planning Committee of the Soul of Agriculture and later on the Drafting Committee. Others who served on those committees with distinction and continue to support the Soul process are, on the Planning Committee, Rick Clugston and Tom Rogers of the Center for respect of Life and Environment; Peter deFur, Center for Environmental Studies; Skip Polson of the Heifer Project International. On the Drafting Committee, were: Sr. Peggy Boehm, St. John's University; Derick Jensen, Environmental writer; Betsy Lydon, Mothers and Others; Neil Schaller, Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture; Paul Smith, Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin; David L. Williams, Iowa farmer.

Roger Blobaum, noted above, was the cement that tied all these persons together and, in many case, brought them into the process during his two years of coordinating the Soul of Agriculture process. The curriculum vitae of the present coordinator, Stanislaus Dundon, can be seen below.

Stanislaus J. Dundon
current Soul of Agriculture Coordinator

Stanislaus J. Dundon is an historian and philosopher of science and technology by training. He began his work in early modern physics but, on moving to an agricultural campus, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, turned his attention to applied agricultural sciences. His interest in the ability of agriculture to serve serious domestic and international human needs led him to become involved in the national curriculum developments in Human Values/Ethics in schools of agriculture. To prepare himself for this work he spent two years (1980-82) in Washington D.C., first as a Congressional Science Fellow in the office Representative George Brown who chaired the committee which oversees the USDA and writes legislation on pesticides, agricultural research and foreign agriculture. He later obtained a Rockefeller grant to study human values in agriculture, working at the Center for the Study of Values at the University of Delaware, and at the National Agricultural Library. He taught history of science and history of agricultural sciences at the University of Maryland during this time and began to publish on agricultural issues in risk/benefit analysis, research policy and agricultural development.

Returning to his campus he established, with a group of agriculturalists, one of the first team-taught courses in agricultural ethics in the country, and assisted graduate students in the International Agricultural Development program. He subsequently received a National Science Foundation fellowship to study, at U.C. Davis, the implicit human values communicated to agricultural students in their economics courses and to study the values influencing research choice by agricultural economists, during 1989-90. During 1990-91 he worked with a Joyce Foundation Fellowship at U.C. Davis to research and develop "The Ethics and Public Policy of Agricultural Biotechnology" (Plant Pathology 140). He formed the team with James Marois (Plant Pathology) and Desmond Jolly (agricultural economics), and obtained the crucial General Education approval for the course. He used a similar approach with the support of the School of Veterinary Medicine in developing "The Ethics of Animal Use"(VMD 170). He remained course leader of VMD 170 for 8 years and continued to teach the ethics portion of PLP 140 until recently. He also served on the Public Advisory Committee for Sustainable Agriculture and on the University Animal Care Committee.
Together with Desmond Jolly he competed successfully for a grant from Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) to develop courses in applied ethics (professional ethics) for farmers, farm extension personnel and researchers. He continues to give workshops on practical ethics to those same target groups at farm conferences and professional meetings.

In November of 1997 he became involved with the Soul of Agriculture project, working with its coordinator, and cooperating with the task of summarizing the papers and consultations which were submitted to its major conference. In 1999 he took a sabbatical from his teaching post in Applied Ethics at California State University, Sacramento and became the full-time national coordinator of the Soul of Agriculture project.

Beginning in 1999, partly as a consequence of his role with the Soul of Agriculture project, he has been drawn into the debate over genetically modified organisms (GMO) in the human food system and been called upon to speak before industry groups, California state legislative committees and recently the American Chemical Society and the Society for Nutrition Education. Most recently he addressed the ethical justification for labelling GM foods before the UC Davis course for international lawyers on international trade conflict resolution. His legislative testimony has been published in Inquiry In Action and can be read at His major concern with the GMO issue is that any potential of molecular biology to improve the human food supply may be damaged by the lack of public funding for scientific research into its risks and the failure to recognize that risk always accompanies any technology which can promise astonishing innovations. He may be reached at [email protected].

CRLE | [email protected]