by Tom Morain
We're Feeding the World
The story begins in the Farm
House on the campus of Iowa State
University in Ames. Shortly after the Civil War, Professor Joseph
Budd and his family moved into the Farm House. Joseph Budd was a professor
of horticulture at Iowa State. He had a daughter named Etta May.
Etta May Budd
After studying art in the East, Etta Budd returned to the Midwest to
teach art at Simpson College in Indianola. There she met a young black
man, the son of former slaves. He was enrolled in one of her art classes.
He loved to paint, especially still life paintings of plants and flowers.
He was also a good gardener. Etta Budd helped him find gardening jobs
with families around Indianola. The young man's name was George
George Washington Carver
his friend and art teacher, Etta Budd took Carver aside one day and urged
him to study something besides art. Etta told him he could never support
himself or a family with his artwork. Instead of painting plants, she
encouraged him to study them. She offered to go with him to Iowa State
where her father was a professor. After thinking about it, Carver agreed
to enroll at Iowa State.
Some time later, Etta visited George Washington Carver at Ames. There
she discovered something that made her very unhappy. Because Carver was
black he had to eat his meals in the kitchen rather than the dining hall
with the other students. This was unacceptable to Etta. She brought him
into the dining hall where the white students took their meals. There
she ate with him until the other students accepted him.
At Iowa State Carver was a brilliant biology student. He even took graduate
work and upon graduation, was offered a teaching position. He was the
first black teacher that Iowa State had ever hired.
Henry A. Wallace
While at Iowa State, Carver used to take long walks into the surrounding
fields to study plants for research. On some of these walks he took a
little friend with him. His friend was the six-year-old son of a dairy
science professor. Carver shared his love of plants, and the boy responded
enthusiastically. At the age of eleven, that boy began doing experiments
with different varieties of corn. His name was Henry
an adult, Wallace's fascination with corn continued. He developed some
of the first hybrid corn varieties and even published his findings in
Wallaces' Farmer Magazine. He also founded Pioneer
Hi-bred International, Inc. By planting his hybrid seed, the per acre
yields of Midwestern corn doubled and tripled.
In 1933, Wallace became Secretary of Agriculture under President
Franklin Roosevelt. Then in 1940 he became Vice President under Roosevelt.
the election of 1940, Wallace took a vacation trip to Mexico. There he found
corn to be an important part of most Mexican families' diet. But the yield
in Mexico was so much lower than that of American farmers who planted hybrid
Wallace had an idea. He would create agriculture experimental stations
like those in Iowa. The stations would develop improved corn varieties
adapted for the climate and soil of Mexico. On his return to the United
States, he proposed the idea to the Rockefeller
Foundation. The Foundation welcomed the idea, and an experimental
station was built in Mexico.
One of the first scientists to join the station started by Wallace in
Mexico was Norman
Borlaug. Born and raised in Cresco, Iowa, Borlaug's work led to great
increases in agricultural production in Mexico.
Twenty years after the station was built, corn
production in Mexico had doubled, and wheat production had increased five-fold.
Borlaug went on to win the 1970 Nobel Peace
Prize for his development of high-yielding wheat.
The work of Borlaug and others in expanding yields of corn, wheat, and
rice prevented worldwide famine. Over the years, the lives of a billion
people were saved.
No one asked Etta Budd to feed a billion people.
Her task as she saw it, was to end a stupid and degrading practice that
demeaned her friend, George Washington Carver. In doing so, however, she
set in motion a series of relationships that changed the world.
Etta Budd helped Carver…Carver helped Wallace…Wallace helped Borlaug…Borlaug
helped the world…
|"Do not forget that the value and interest of life is not so
much to do conspicuous things as to do ordinary things with the perception
of their enormous value."
~Teilhard de Chardin
Photos used with permission from:
University Library/Special Collections - Etta May Budd photo
New Deal Network - Henry A. Wallace
University Library/Special Collections - George Washington Carver photo
Gary Thelen - Henry A.Wallace Gravestone
The World Food Prize Foundation
- Norman Borlaug photo