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Wallaces Farmer

I have some big shoes to fill

As Things Look to Me: It’s humbling to follow in the footsteps of Henry A. Wallace.

Gil Gullickson

January 17, 2024

3 Min Read
READY TO HELP: As the newest editor of Wallaces Farmer, I hope to follow in the footsteps of Henry A. Wallace to help farmers and their families succeed.Lisa Gullickson

“Wallace?” said my father as he furrowed his brow. “Who’s Wallace?”

That was my dad’s query when I first told him I was going to work for the then-regional editions of Wallaces Farmer in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

“Is he that guy who ran for president a while ago?” he asked.

“Nope,” I replied. He didn’t have a strong opinion on the then-governor of Alabama, George Wallace, who repeatedly ran for president in the 1960s and 1970s. It was just the first Wallace who popped into his head.

“Think about what’s upstairs in the granary,” I told him. “You know those Ever-Normal Granary posters you have up there?”

He thought. Thought again. And silently thought some more. He did remember that the Ever-Normal Granary was enacted in the 1930s to manage surpluses. This helped stabilize bargain-basement grain prices while buffering grain supplies if crops failed.

“You know who signed them, don’t you?” I asked.

Then he smiled. Grinned, actually. That’s because he realized the signature on those posters was Henry A. Wallace, who headed USDA from 1933 to 1940. To many farmers such as my father, Wallace was revered. He served as USDA secretary during desperate times for farmers during one of the most trying times for farmers. Before that, Wallace was also editor of this magazine, which was started by his family.

Smartest person in room

You know that expression “He/she is the smartest person in the room?” My first thought is always that maybe that person is in the wrong room!

Then again, this saying perfectly fit Henry A. Wallace. Part of his appeal is that like his boss President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Wallace was an experimenter. When one thing didn’t work, he’d work to improve it.

He honed this acumen for perfection as editor of Wallaces Farmer. From 1921 to 1933, Wallace as editor scoured Iowa, searching for ways to help farmers and their families. His simultaneous interest in perfecting plant breeding led to co-founding the Hi-Bred Corn Co. to develop and produce hybrid corn. Eventually, this company became Pioneer Hi-Bred, which was fully purchased by DuPont in 1999. The Pioneer brand is still a major part of the company that now sells it, Corteva Agriscience.

Wallace became U.S. vice president in 1941 and a presidential candidate in 1948. As a politician, Wallace endured a rough stretch. During the 1948 presidential campaign, he had his share of eggs and tomatoes thrown at him as a candidate for the Progressive Party. He eventually retired to a farm in New York and returned to plant breeding. Tragically, he passed away in 1965 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Typical of his previous career steps, he tried various methods to improve the treatment of his disease. “I look at myself as an ALS guinea pig, willing to try almost anything,” he said.

I’m the 13th person to sit in the editor’s chair of Wallaces Farmer. (I hope in this case that 13 is lucky!) My pledge to you is to report on ways to make you money and benefit your families. Some ventures and strategies may work; others won’t. But that continual improvement that Henry A. Wallace sought will be my goal.

Comments? Email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Gil Gullickson

Senior editor of Wallaces Farmer, Farm Progress

Gil Gullickson grew up on a farm that he now owns near Langford, S.D., and graduated with an agronomy degree from South Dakota State University. Earlier in his career, he spent 13 years as a Farm Progress editor, covering Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Gullickson is a widely respected and decorated ag journalist, earning the Agricultural Communicators Network writing award for Writer of the Year three times, and winning Story of the Year four times. He is a past winner of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists’ Food and Agriculture Organization Award for Food Security. He has served as president of both ACN and the North American Agricultural Journalists.

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