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Tractor Time Episode 18: Charles Walters, Then, Today and Tomorrow (from 2006)

Welcome to another episode of Tractor Time, brought to you by Acres USA, the Voice of Eco-Agriculture. I’m your host, Ryan Slabaugh, the GM and publisher of Acres U.S.A.

Charles Walters

Charles Walters. His talk in this podcast was recorded in 2006 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Last week, I took a trip. I spent about 36 hours in the car driving from Colorado to Illinois, down to Columbia, Missouri, back to Illinois, and back home to Colorado. For a few days while I was in Missouri, I spent time at a sacred ground to us. At the University of Missouri, hidden among the tall brick buildings, is an open space called “Sanborn Field,” run by a guy named Tim Reinbott. You probably recognize the name if you’ve ever been to our conference.

There, Tim has built and preserved what a professor named William Albrecht built there a century ago. Prof. Albrecht started test plots in hopes of showing what happens when you grow corn, continuously without fertilizer or manure, and what that does to the soil. I’ll save you the suspense. It looks terrible. The stalks, miniature compared to the other, more well-fed test plots, were brown and only about two feet tall. (Here’s a link to a research site where you can find a lot of Albrecht’s published papers.)

Here’s Tim talking about that field.

The video was captured in July 2018 near these fields that Charles Walters met William Albrecht for the first time. Charles, while trying to piece together the information that would build the foundation for Acres U.S.A.’s belief in ecology-based agriculture, found scientists he kept interviewing telling him about Albrecht. Charles being Charles, he did his research and found out Prof. Albrecht was just down the road a couple hours. He called the university, and they told him not to bother. But, again, Charles being Charles, he got in the car anyway and drove to meet the scientist. When he knocked on the door, a voice boomed out, “Don’t knock when you enter and leave the same way.” Charles walked in – and I learned all this from his son, Fred – and when Charles walked in, without even an introduction, said, “You must be from Western Kansas. You have good teeth.”

Albrecht had pioneered research to connect local food to local health. It’s science that more should understand today. He pulled dental records from the military and matched those with the amount of calcium found in the soil and they matched. It’s an incredible study, still available for free on the University of Missouri’s academic research site.

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