|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
Howard F. Lyman, President of the IVU
from EVU News, Issue 4 /1997
As a fourth-generation family farmer in Montana for almost 40 years, I speak from a background of personal experience when I say that chemically based agricultural production methods today are unsustainable, and therefore ecologically disastrous. My experiences range from working in a large organic dairy to raising registered beef cattle to owning a large factory feedlot. I have farmed thousands of acres of grain and reproduced a herd of over one thousand commercial beef cows. In addition to raising cows, I have raised chickens, pigs, and turkeys. I have also grown crops such as wheat, barley, oats, corn, alfalfa, and grass.
I was involved in agriculture at a time when the call dictated getting bigger and better or getting out. I was educated in modern agriculture, and I can tell you from firsthand experience -- it is not sustainable. I followed all the modern advice and turned a small organic family farm into a large corporate chemical farm with a thousand range cows, five thousand head of cattle in a factory feedlot, thousands of acres of crops, and as many as thirty employees. I saw the organic soil go from a living, productive base to a sterile, chemical-saturated, mono-cultural ground produced by my so-called modern methods.
In 1979, a tumor on my spinal cord caused me to be paralyzed from the waist down. That changed my life forever. I promised myself that, whatever the outcome of the surgery, I would dedicate the rest of my life to doing what I believed to be right -- no matter what changes that necessitated. The period before and after the surgery gave me much time to think about the changes resulting form my methods of farming. Convinced that we were going the wrong way, I decided to become a voice for the family farmer and the land. In 1983, I sold most of my farm and started working for farmers in financial trouble. This led to my working for the Montana Farmers Union and from there to Washington, D.C. as a lobbyist for the National Farmers Union.
For five years I worked on Capitol Hill for Americaís family farmers. In that time we had some small successes, such as passing the National Organic Standards Act. But even after the act became a law, it took the administration several years to allow funds for its implementation. I became convinced that the changes needed had to come from the producer and the consumers at the grass-roots level. Until that alliance is put into play, the big money interest will continue to control public policy in the Congress of the United States.
My goal is to see a producer-consumer alliance controlling public policy decisions in North America. To that end I have joined the Humane Society Of the United States as Director of the Eating With Conscience Campaign. This campaign has been designed to educate people about organic sustainable agriculture and the dangers of current methods of food production. Informed producers and consumers can help by making humane choices in their personal lives.
My progress in achieving sustainable agriculture has been marked by some very interesting events. I ran for Congress in Montana in 1982 and was able to enlist over two dozen full time volunteers to carry the message through the political campaign. Although we lost (by less than 4 percent to a six-term incumbent), we were able to focus the voters' attention on who was producing our food and how they were doing it. I was the executive director of the international Beyond Beef Campaign, which was able to organize over 2,400 teams consisting of over 10,000 people who handed out over 1,000,000 pieces of information in one day at over 3,000 separate locations around the world. This information was to educate consumers about their food choices.
While Director of the Eating With Conscience Campaign, I have appeared on over one thousand radio stations and hundreds of television stations, and I have spoken to thousands of groups - from small audiences to an assembly of over 25,000 people at the Earth Day celebration in Oakland, California. The message is always the same; If there is to be a bright future for our children and grandchildren, it will come from consumer support of producers who work in concert with nature - organically, sustainably, and humanely.
H. Lyman, 700 Professional Drive, MD 20879, Gaithersburg, USA.