MOTHER's Newsworthies: Bob Steffen, Jane Fonda and Carol Foreman

Learn how Bob Steffen, Jane Fonda and Carol Foreman are bettering their communities.


| May/June 1978



051-082-01-Bob-Steffen

Bob Steffen ran a 900-acre farm called Boys Town, for 35 years. Steffen says the idea of Boys Town was "to get the boy to realize his own worth, to help himself, and to gain an appreciation of the balance of nature."


PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Brief: Bob Steffen

For 35 years — ever since the late Reverend Edward J. Flanagan (Father Flanagan) hired him to take charge of Boys Town's 900-acre farm in 1943 — Bob Steffen managed one of the largest "organic" gardens in the country. Late last year, however, the soft-spoken agronomist was dismissed from his post at the home ... and Boys Town officials have announced that — starting this spring — they'll abandon Steffen's wholistic farming methods in favor of "conventional" growing techniques.

According to Administration Director Ed Hewitt, Boys Town looks "messy" with all those piles of ripening compost around ... "chemicals are more efficient ... the farm has been costly to us ... we've got to get better production and a better return ... we can't afford an experiment on this scale."

Bob Steffen — who studied at the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening School in Kimberton, Pennsylvania before starting his life's work — sees the questions of "efficiency" and "return on investment" in, perhaps, somewhat less narrow terms. "I was determined to adhere to the principles of organic farming when I took the Boys Town job," he says, "and over the years I introduced a lot of the home's residents to those principles. I like to think that a number of the boys were helped by that, even though we were trying to teach in two to three years what a normal farm boy learns in 10 to 15. The idea was to get the boy to realize his own worth, to help himself, and to gain an appreciation of the balance of nature."

Bob and his wife have now retired to an 80-acre homestead in Bennington, Nebraska ... where they're working to establish a garden and orchard and — with the help of a book by Helen and Scott Nearing — to convert a hog house into a greenhouse. As might be expected, Steffen is "disappointed, of course" about the fate of the Boys Town farm, but he tries not to think about it.

"I made it a point to teach the youngsters production instead of consumption," Bob says. "But they're teaching them how to be smart consumers now."— Adapted from an article by Dave Sink in the West Omaha Sun.

Brief: Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda's on the march again! Only this time the famous actress and political activist — a prominent figure in the anti-war movement of the sixties — is marching to promote the use of solar energy.





mother earth news fair

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!

LEARN MORE