A Memorial To Patrick Madden
By Elizabeth Bird and friends
Printed in the Winter 2001 issue of Inquiry in Action, the newsletter of the Consortium for Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education
A dear and lovely friend, Patrick Madden, passed away in his sleep on October 31, 2001. Patrick had been diagnosed with brain cancer last February. He dealt with this tremendous blow as he seemed to treat life as a whole—with positive energy, and an eagerness to explore the gifts of life.
Patrick was born on July 20, 1937 in Merrill, Oregon, and grew up on a farm with two sisters and brother in Malin, Oregon. He met his first wife, "Bibi" in the 3rd grade. Patrick studied Agricultural Economics at Oregon State University (B.S. 1959) and Iowa State University where he concentrated on economic development and statistics (Ph.D. 1962). Between 1960 and 1965, Patrick and Bibi had five children who survive him: Kathryn, Lenia, Theresa, John and Jennifer.
From 1963 to 1967 he worked in Washington, DC with the USDA Economic Research Service, leading a national study on the economics of farm size, and staffing a Presidential advisory commission on rural poverty that created The People Left Behind. In 1967 he joined the faculty at Penn State where he continued to study the future prospects for small and moderate sized farms. In the 1980s he worked with the Rodale Institute on the transition to regenerative farming methods, and studied the ethics of public choices regarding agricultural policy and technology development. In 1986 the National Academy of Sciences commissioned him to help write the ground-breaking volume, Alternative Agriculture (National Academy Press, 1989). He was responsible for Part II, the case studies of farms illustrating low-input methods and systems. In 1988 he went to USDA to serve as the founding Director for the LISA/SARE program, and then moved to California and stepped back to Associate Director till 1994. In 1991 he helped organize the World Sustainable Agriculture Association and served as its President and CEO for several years.
I spoke with Patrick in March when he was trying an unconventional therapy. He struck me as characteristically proceeding with equal measures of enthusiastic hope, delight in being an experimental subject for a drug that seemed to have worked wonders in South America and needed legitimating in this country, practical recognition that he might yet die soon from this disease, and a profound sense of comfort in the continuity of spirit and timelessness of love. His knowledge and ability to participate with this experimental therapy was one of the fruits of his network of like-minded innovators and committed activists around the globe.
I am thankful to have shared sacred, sweet and funny moments with Patrick as a good friend, and to have collaborated with him as a solid and conscientious colleague, for more than 10 years. Our first joint project was advocating for the USDA's National Research Initiative to live up to Congressional direction to embrace and serve sustainable agriculture. Patrick was a co-founder of CSARE and served on its initial Steering Committee and then the Governing Council. He was an important and valued mentor and partner in launching our organization. Later he played a principal role in the Reward Systems Task Force and publication of Incentives and Barriers for Public Interest Research and Scientific Public Service. Every one of our encounters as colleagues and friends was joyful and dear.
I enjoyed visiting Patrick and his wife Mary Margaret in August 2000 at their new home in Poulsbo, Washington, a lovely ferry jaunt from Seattle. With great enthusiasm Patrick showed me the rapidly growing fruits of his complex and beautiful garden, much of it arranged as a medicine wheel. Having overhauled the landscaping in my own yard, I was astonished by how much he'd accomplished so quickly, including construction of water fall music and a pond. With equal enthusiasm he treated my travel-worn and aching body to massage, for which he had a gift. I was proud of him for having resurrected himself and reinvented his professional path after his shake-out from the World Sustainable Agriculture Association.
According to Mary and his daughter Jen, Patrick was in a lovely, sweet, thankful space till the end, evidencing his childlike spirit and wonder for life. When he awoke each day, he greeted life with joy and, as he told Mary, "delighted in being surrounded by all the beautiful women who loved and cared for him" (including Hospice). We are all glad that he went fast at the end, largely free of pain and "in the lap of comfort and luxury." Mary felt he was ahead of his time in dying as he so often had been in life. Giving to the last—he'd reach out and try to massage a caretaker's neck or in some way bring comfort. An orphaned kitty arrived at Mary's door the morning after Patrick passed, and has been providing comfort since.
I called up several of Patrick's friends to invite them to comment on his life, and its effects on them and the world. These are their words, written or spoken:
Kate Smith: I first met Patrick in 1987 when interviewing for a faculty position at the Pennsylvania State University. Patrick was a Professor and on the search committee. Right away he felt like a friend and ally. When he left his faculty position a few years later, the department was never quite the same. No one else could argue the need and economic justification for small scale and low input agriculture like Patrick. His quiet voice, sharp eyes, and patient logic all combined into an effective voice among those that considered economies of scale and scope to be the only relevant paradigm to view agriculture. Several years ago a group of like-minded people, Patrick among them, met to discuss new economic paradigms for agriculture at a beautiful place called the Looking Glass Inn in the mountains of Idaho. My fondest memory was of an early morning walk down to a nearby river. He and I stood on rocks, watching the sun come above the mountains and listening to the water gurgle. Our conversation was private, but the feeling he expressed to me was one of great faith in who I was and in what I could accomplish with my life. Patrick was truly one of my strongest allies. I will miss him.
Neill Schaller: I think Patrick made an enormous contribution at a time when it was almost impossible to communicate things that now are ordinarily spoken. It's very painful to do that, to speak up. He thought from his heart and believed firmly in what he was doing and in speaking the truth. He had a way sometimes of antagonizing folks because he felt so strongly about things. But then I thought, this guy has got a tremendously strong feeling and understanding of all of this, and we should listen to him.
Garth Youngberg: I regard Patrick as one of the principal pioneers of the sustainable agriculture movement. He made a particularly important contribution in the early years because he brought academic credibility and prestige to it as an economist. Patrick did some of the economic analysis on early conversion trials. He helped legitimize the notion of an alternative farming system. He had enormous energy and commitment. You remember in those early days it was pretty hard to find academics who would do anything in this field and he was one who would. He worked hard to launch the SARE program as its first director.
Kate Clancy: I remember very well the first time I met Patrick. It was in the early '80s when he was still at Penn State. A colleague introduced us in Patrick's office, and he proceeded to talk my head off. He was telling me about the iconoclastic paper he had recently written about the problems with the neo-classical paradigm of ag economics, and he was sharing the story of the death of his wife. This first encounter kind of sums up all the others over these several decades—his courage, his loquaciousness, his warmth. He made many contributions to the sustainable agriculture world—none more than the deep friendship he offered to so many of us. Rest in peace, Patrick.
Frederick Kirschenmann (in a note to Jennifer she subsequently shared with me): Patrick meant a great deal to me and to thousands of others who have been at the forefront of the sustainable agriculture movement. Had it not been for Patrick's courage, vision, dedication and intellectual leadership, the movement may never have gotten off the ground. I am especially deeply grateful for having had the opportunity to work with Patrick on numerous occasions. His generosity was always an inspiration to us all. We will all miss him.
Jill Auburn: Hardly a day goes by that I do not benefit from Patrick Madden's extraordinary combination of vision, follow-through, and mentorship. The SARE program that I now direct is unusually participatory and holistic even for today, a direct result of the creativity and dedication that Patrick nurtured in its infancy more than a decade ago. But most of all, I appreciate the way Patrick encouraged and supported so many of us to grow as people as well as sustainable agriculture advocates. He gave me one of my first big challenges (the SARE Outreach steering committee), opened doors to international experiences and relationships, sensed when I was under pressure and relieved the tension with a hug or a shoulder massage or a kind word. I know I am just one of many whom he similarly inspired and mentored.
John Gerber: We will carry on your work, dear friend. This issue of Inquiry in Action, which deals so much with education for sustainability, is for you.
Patrick Madden Award Winners
Learn more about the Patrick Madden award winners from each year: