This week, in conjunction with hosting the 6th Annual MarketPlace entrepreneurship event in Kearney, the Center for Rural Affairs presented its Seventh Generation Award to Tom Brown, lifelong farmer and longtime activist of Hershey, Nebraska during the Center’s annual awards banquet. The Seventh Generation Award is a life-time service award presented to an individual who has made major contributions to improving rural life and protecting our land and water.
“Tom has contributed over many years in many ways to our mission of building communities that stand for social justice, economic opportunity and environmental stewardship,” said John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs’ Development and Outreach officer. “There could be no one more worthy of this award than Tom Brown.”
Brown is a lifelong farmer and rancher, and a champion of family farming, fairness and environmental stewardship. In his brief acceptance remarks he touched on both humorous and poignant memories of growing up during the Great Depression and farming from 1940 until today.
“We pioneered no-till farming in our county, and today we face herbicide-resistant weeds and other issues that will challenge no-till farmers in the future - maybe not my problem, but my sons will have to deal with it,” said Brown, noting that while the topics may change, there are still challenges to address and issues to debate.
“It was a lot of fun taking on big corporate agriculture with Initiative 300, and winning. I’m grateful for this award. I really don’t deserve it, I’ve just lived longer than the other guys,” added Brown to both laughter and applause.
According to Crabtree, Tom’s involvement in the Center for Rural Affairs dates back to the 1980s when he worked with members of Congress to help win federal tax reforms that reduced subsidies for corporate and absentee investment in agriculture. “He worked with Marty Strange (Center for Rural Affairs co-founder) 25 years ago to beat back the corporate farming interests trying to undo Initiative 300. And he was with us again 10 years ago when they came back after it again. More recently, he worked with us as an outspoken advocate for health care reform.”
Crabtree continued, “Tom is committed to leaving the land to the next generation in better shape than when he got it. He has been a fierce advocate for replacing commodity subsidies with conservation incentives. He has practiced no-till conservation on his own farm. He cut his teeth in the environmental movement fighting the Gerald Gentleman coal plant in the late 1970s. Since then, he has been a committed Sierra Club activists and leader.”