Gil Gillespie (left) receives AFHVS's Leifetime Achievement Award, June 16, 2018Gilbert W. Gillespie Jr.'s acceptance remarks for the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society's Richard P. Haynes Distinguished Lifetime Achievement in Sustainable Agriculture award for 2018

(In the photo at right, Leland Glenna (at right, AFHVS past president and awards committee chair) presents Gil with the award.)

Madison, WI, June 16, 2018 -- As a sociologist, I am acutely aware that the common narratives of heroic individual achievement are at best incomplete and at worst misleadingly false. Therefore, in accepting this award I wish to attempt to acknowledge that my accomplishments have been enabled by collaborators engaged with me in joint projects, by people whose work illuminated mine, and by people who helped to provide "space" for me to pursue my passions. 

My exercise of contemplating those to whom I am indebted has been humbling. The resulting list is very long and I cannot over-emphasize how important many people have been to me. Therefore, you can all thank Leland for giving me just 5 minutes today. My apologies to the many deserving people who I won't be acknowledging today. 

From 1992 to 2006 the major source of collaboration, inspiration, and support for me was my colleagues in the Community, Food, and Agriculture Program (CFAP) in Development Sociology at Cornell. We critically examined trends in agriculture and the food system and sought to offer creative positive alternatives. The key long-term players included Tom Lyson, Duncan Hilchey, Joanna Green, Heidi Moullesseaux-Kunzman, and Gretchen Gilbert.

I collaborated in many interesting and productive research projects that included studies of farmers' markets, the dairy industry, rural livelihoods, indicators of local agricultural viability, and anaerobic digestion of animal waste. Some of my collaborators that members of this audience might know include Gail Feenstra, Amy Guptill, Doug Harper, Clare Hinrichs, Alex McIntosh, Jeff Sobal, Steve Stevenson, and Rick Welsh.

Over the years I had the opportunity to work directly with some bright and dedicated graduate students who made important contributions to particular projects or to my teaching. Recently, Hyunok Lee, Megan Gremelspacher Swindal, and Andrea Roufs Woodward were particularly notable. I also had the privilege of serving as an ad hoc or minor member on the committees of a number of graduate students. Their insightful investigations of their projects greatly informed my work

I am indebted to the undergraduate members of the classes I taught. They motivated and challenged me to think more clearly and inclusively about issues agriculture and food. I acknowledge the contributions of grassroot citizen-actors. They really inspired me with their tireless efforts to promote a more sustainable and just food system. They did that work against great odds and with few resources. Being familiar with their less privileged situations helped me to keep my own situation in perspective. Chuck Benson, Kate Clancy, Alison Clarke, Elizabeth Henderson, Kathy Lawrence, Karl North, and Kathy Ruhf are examples in this category. I surmise that among those present only Kate Clancy can appreciate just how incomplete is that list and how diverse are those included. In addition I was fortunate to collaborate with some of these actors on participatory projects, including studies of small-scale food processors and of beginning farmers.

As a research associate and lecturer in Development Sociology at Cornell, my situation was always tenuous because it was contingent on grant funding and teaching assignments. My ability to enjoy the resources availed to me in the Department for more than 20 years was possible only because of the support of others. Fred Buttel and Tom Lyson were faculty members who sponsored me without subordinating or suffocating me. Max Pfeffer, David Brown, and Philip McMichael were department chairs who harbored me in the department and generously helped me to find opportunities. Terri Denman was the long-term department business manager who both was incredibly helpful with research proposals and actively looked out for my interests. Bev Munson and Renee Hoffman were department chair's assistants who always went above and beyond the call of duty for me. Linda (Warner) Lambert also provided exceptionally competent and dedicated administrative support for my teaching. Ronnie Coffman and Mike Hoffman were experiment station directors who supported me with small research and extension grants and approved me for participation in multi-state research projects.

I am particularly thankful for the AFHVS and ASFS joint annual conferences. They have been the highlight in my annual round for many years. I have always headed home refreshed and feeling renewed commitment. The list of past officers and board members on the AFHVS website is a who's-who of those to whom I am indebted for their positive influence on me. I have been honored to have had the opportunity to serve the AFHVS in various capacities and I especially thank Doug Constance, who preceded me as president. He was very helpful to me in that role and in other ways, which has compensated for his being such a tough act to follow.

I thank my wife, Ardyth, for her 50 years of support and collaboration. Finally, I thank the person who nominated me, those who supported my nomination, and the Awards Committee. I had the greatest respect for Richard Haynes and I am very grateful to be honored with this award that carries his name.

Again, thank you!

Photo courtesy of Doug Constance and used with permission.

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