Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research


Concentrating on the ideological underpinnings of American agriculture, Beeman and Prichard illuminate the 20th-century debate over defining and implementing suitable agricultural practices and policies. Against the backdrop of the Great Depression and World War II, farmers, environmentalists, federal officials, and academics found agriculture influenced by a growing ecological movement. Techniques purporting a better urban-rural balance, soil conservation, and organic fertilization were favored by individuals seeking an alternative to the economic and social despair experienced by Americans during the 1930s and 1940s. The agricultural establishment troika of agribusiness, land-grant universities, and the United States Department of Agriculture eschewed such ideas until the mid 1960s when larger cultural changes made it expedient to co-opt ecological precepts. Unorthodox ideas soon became commonplace on the American landscape of the 1970s and 1980s.