Agricultural History Society 2017 Conference

L. V. Eberhard Center, Grand Valley State University, 301 Fulton Street W., Grand Rapids MI 49504    map

The Agricultural History Society was founded in Washington, DC in 1919 "to promote the interest, study and research in the history of agriculture." Incorporated in 1924, the Society began publishing a journal, Agricultural History, in 1927. The term "agricultural history" has always been interpreted broadly, and the Society encourages research and publishes articles from all countries and in all periods of history. Initially affiliated with the American Historical Association, the Agricultural History Society is the third oldest, discipline-based professional organization in the United States. Currently the membership includes agricultural economists, anthropologists, economists, environmentalists, historians, historical geographers, rural sociologists, and a variety of independent scholars. 

Link here to register and for program information.

Link here for a draft of the two day program presentations.

June 9, 10:30 a.m.: Note especially the paper by Jayson Otto on behalf of the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council: "Saving the 'Defective' Child and the Poor Housewife: Public Gardening Programs of Women's Clubs During the Progressive Era in Grand Rapids, Michigan." He will join the panel titled "Women's Responses to the Challenges of Industrialization."

From Jayson Otto:
Like other Progressive Era cities, Grand Rapids, Michigan, struggled with rapid industrialization, and its wealthy, educated club women hoped to help solve economic problems by lowering food prices and increasing self-sufficiency. My earlier research reports on three successful neighborhood farmers markets resulting from the civic engagement of women’s clubs and their work with the wartime Woman’s Committee of the Council of National Defense. During the first quarter of the 20th century Grand Rapids female reformers also sponsored extremely successful gardening and food preservation programs, to be highlighted in this presentation. Exploring the civic work of prominent women in a midwestern, mid-sized, industrial city can complicate our understanding of how valuable “municipal housework” could also reinforce contemporary class roles through nationalism, racism, and an idealization of gender. Detailed local examples of the civic work accomplished by the era’s female reformers will also build a fuller picture of the political economy their work supported. Despite their successes, too often immigrants and people of color were viewed as “problems” to be remedied by wholesome gardening programs for their children and instructions on thrift set by the wealthy for poor housewives.

About Jayson Otto: Jayson received his Master’s in Community, Agriculture, Recreation, and Resources Studies from Michigan State University in 2011.  His Bachelor’s degree is in Anthropology from Grand Valley State University. Jayson’s specializations include food systems, cultural studies, and history.  His current research looks at the role of municipal markets and community gardens as public services during the Progressive Era in Michigan, and more specifically, the political role upper and middle class women played in these institutions.  His research on Progressive Era Grand Rapids can be read in a chapter of Cities of Farmers, a textbook on urban agriculture from University of Iowa Press.  Jayson has conducted ethnographic fieldwork for Grand Valley State University and managed the Fulton Street Farmers Market for three seasons between 2005 and 2007.  He is currently the data specialist at Covenant House Academy Grand Rapids, a school for at-risk high school students.  When not counting students and managing databases, Jayson is working on a book, wrenching on old German cars, working on his house, or playing music.  He lives in the Midtown Neighborhood with his wife Kelly and both of his daughters are currently Aquinas Saints.