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Bennett, Hugh Hammond (15 April 1881–07 July 1960), soil conservationist and soil scientist, was born near Wadesboro in Anson County, North Carolina, the son of William Osborne Bennett and Rosa May Hammond, farmers.

Bennett earned a bachelor of science degree with an emphasis in chemistry and geology from the University of North Carolina in June 1903. At that time, the Bureau of Soils within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had just begun to make county-based soil surveys, which would in time be regarded as important American contributions to soil science. Bennett accepted a job in the bureau headquarters’ laboratory in Washington, D.C., but agreed first to assist on the soil survey of Davidson County, Tennessee, beginning 1 July 1903. The acceptance of that task, in Bennett’s words, “fixed my life’s work in soils.”...

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Borlaug, Norman Ernest (25 March 1914–12 September 2009), biologist, agronomist, and humanitarian, was born in Saude, Iowa, to grandchildren of Norwegian immigrants. He grew up on his family’s working farm, where he learned to fish, hunt, raise corn and oats, and tend livestock. His grandfather encouraged him to pursue education, so Norman left the family farm in 1933 to enroll in the University of Minnesota. His college years coincided with the depths of the Great Depression. To earn money, Borlaug left school in 1935 and found employment with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). In the CCC he saw the effect of starvation first hand, and this experience affected him deeply. Long before “food security” became a common phrase, Borlaug knew its significance. In 1937 he graduated with a B.S. in forestry from the College of Agriculture and secured a job with the United States Forest Service. In 1938 he married former classmate Margaret Gibson. The couple had three children....

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Callaway, Cason Jewell (06 November 1894–12 April 1961), business executive, agriculturist, and developer, was born in LaGrange, Georgia, the son of Fuller Earle Callaway and Ida Jane Cason. His father was the founder of Callaway Mills, Inc., a highly successful cotton processing firm. He attended Bingham Military School in Asheville, North Carolina, followed by one year at the University of Virginia. He enjoyed a successful year at Charlottesville, but his father decided that he needed skills training. Therefore, he enrolled at Eastman School of Business in Poughkeepsie, New York. Young Callaway was given responsibility for Valley Waste Mills, a division of his father’s Callaway Mills. At age twenty he organized Valley Waste Mills into a great commercial success as a pioneering recycling operation. His achievements gained his father’s attention as well as that of other top managers in the firm, since the waste division netted more than $1 million in profits during the three-year period just before U.S. entry into World War I....

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Walter Clay Lowdermilk. Courtesy of the National Archives (114G-90723).

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Lowdermilk, Walter Clay (01 July 1888–06 May 1974), soil scientist, geologist, soil conservation leader, and author, was born Walter Clay Lowdermilk in Liberty, North Carolina, the son of Henry Clay Lowdermilk, a businessman, lumberman, and rancher, and Helen Vashti Lawrence Lowdermilk. The family moved westward to Missouri, to Oklahoma, and finally to Arizona. Walter Lowdermilk graduated from the Park College Academy in Parkville, Missouri, in 1906 and then attended Park College (1908–1910). In 1910 he enrolled at the University of Arizona; after two years there he won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where he earned a B.S. degree in forestry (1914); a B.A. degree in geology (1915); and an M.A. degree, granted in abstentia (1922). While at Oxford he had an opportunity to study forestry in Germany. He also served on ...

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Rodale, J. I. (16 August 1898–07 June 1971), health food publisher, was born Jerome Irving Cohen in New York City, the son of Michael Cohen, a capmaker and grocer, and Bertha Rouda. Both parents were Polish immigrants. Rodale studied at New York and Columbia Universities but did not earn any degrees. At age twenty he became an auditor for the Internal Revenue Service, and at twenty-one he moved to Pittsburgh, where he worked in a private accounting firm for three years. He wanted, however, for some vague reason that he never explained, to be a farmer and publisher. In 1920 he traveled to Kentucky on business and became enchanted with the Bluegrass State. “Being among farmers and in farm country I was more and more imbued with the ambition of some day having my own farm and riding to town with my children on a buck-board drawn by two trusty horses.”...

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Vanderbilt, George Washington (14 November 1862–06 March 1914), agriculturalist and philanthropist, was born at New Dorp, Staten Island, New York, the youngest of the eight children of William Henry Vanderbilt and Maria Louisa Kissam. His father, the son of “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt, inherited most of the Commodore's fortune, including railroads, and became president of the New York Central Railroad. Upon his grandfather's death in 1877, George Washington Vanderbilt received a bequest of $1 million. When George turned twenty-one, his father gave him another million. When his father died in 1885, young Vanderbilt inherited $5 million more and controlled the income from a $5 million trust fund. While his three brothers—...