Abstract

In May 1962 leaders from a variety of federal agencies and independent organizations gathered to “exchange ideas about the future course of American conservation policy.” Central to the agenda discussed were certain Kennedy administration agricultural conservation programs that sought to apply the ideology of multiple use, which formed the heart of public land conservation policy for private lands. Key policymakers, most notably Agriculture Secretary Orville Freeman, used the conference and the subsequent years to argue that adjusting agricultural lands to new uses that still retained an agrarian foundation, such as on-farm recreation, would solve multiple societal problems, including rural poverty, the disappearance of the small farm, agricultural surplus, lack of outdoor recreational space for urban and suburban Americans, and urban blight. This article explains how and why federal policymakers during the 1960s attempted to transform private agricultural lands to meet these diverse, and at times competing, societal goals.

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