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The Nature of the FutureAgriculture, Science, and Capitalism in the Antebellum North$
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Emily Pawley

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226693835

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226693972.001.0001

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(p.219) Epilogue
The Nature of the Future

Emily Pawley

University of Chicago Press

The epilogue traces some of the legacies of antebellum improvement. First it looks at the New York State Experiment Station, established in 1885, which became a national model, showing the station’s concrete links to antebellum improvement, and its role in carrying improving agendas forward into the scientific agriculture of the 20th century. The epilogue also finds the descendants of improvement’s commercial networks in events like the Commodity Classic, a yield competition that tests both farmers and named commodities and that acts both as education and advertising. Though these first two examples connect improvement to “industrial farming” and modern agribusiness, we can also find improvement’s legacy in “alternative farming”, particularly the organic farming movement pushed in the United States by Jerome Rodale, who used improving experiments, concepts, and business models. The epilogue points to ways that improvement’s modernizing and futuristic role has been hidden by the nostalgic sense that even recent agriculture is “traditional” and natural. It suggests that thinking about improvement can help us judge claims about agriculture’s future as more possible futures compete for our attention and allegiance.

Keywords:   agricultural experiment stations, history of organic farming, Jerome I. Rodale, agribusiness, history of the future

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