Organic Agriculture Advocate Ralph Engelken Is Gone

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Ralph Engelken when he was actively engaged in organic agriculture.

“Few people realize,” said Ralph Engelken in the course of our interview with him and his wife, Rita, in Ralph and Rita Engelken: On Organic Farming, “that we’ve got all the wealth we need right beneath our feet.”

It was a simple but characteristically perceptive and caring statement from the man who, over the past several years, had become a strong voice for organic agriculture and a symbol of the family farmer’s fight to survive.

That fight took a direct toll on the Engelkens early in 1983, when the Federal Land Bank began foreclosure proceedings on the couple’s 550-acre organic farm — one of the very finest examples of natural agriculture in the country and the product of nearly 30 years of love and before-dawn-to-after-dusk hard work from Ralph and Rita. We reported the details of the litigation threatening the Engelkens and their land in The Decreasing Number of Farms and Family Farmers.

Now, with even greater sadness, which we know will be shared by all our readers, we must report that Ralph Engelken died on December 7, 1984.

He will be sorely missed, for this country’s wealth is not only “in the soil beneath our feet,” but also in those rare individuals who live their love for the land, and who have the courage to stand up in defense of it.

Meanwhile, the effort to foreclose on the Engelken farm continues. There are no new developments to report as of this writing (mid-January).

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