40 YEARS OF ‘THE FARMER’
A monthly supplement to The Delmarva Farmer
McFadden used paper to help spearhead no-till revolution
(Editor’s note: As readers will be aware from reading the front page of this issue of The Delmarva Farmer, Jim McFadden, the subject of this report, died March 11 in Asheboro, N.C.
We were not aware of his passing when this was written and decided not to change the tense nor otherwise alter it, believing, as we do, that it faithfully recounts his role in an historic period in Delmarva agriculture and his final days. As such, we believe it should become part of our tribute to him.)
Jim McFadden sits in his bed in the home of his daughter in Asheboro, N.C. He is 95.
He does not get out of the bed. He has been confined to that bed for two years and three months.
But do not assume he is about to be summoned Home.
“His vital signs are better than mine, truly,” said daughter Carolyn Wilson. “You know that clip they put on the end of your finger to measure oxygen in the blood? His was better than mine just last week.”
We cannot explore the first 40 years in the life of The Delmarva Farmer without inviting Jim McFadden to the birthday. He could help us blow out the candles.
* * *
The Delmarva Farmer didn’t just happen. It emerged from a convergence of forces which found a core in E. Ralph Hostetter, a venture capitalist and the publisher of several newspapers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Hostetter had a friend, the late John Fulton Lewis, a Virginian who, at the time in the late 1970s, was media director for the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Lewis had a friend, Robert Baines Delano of Warsaw, Va. who was then president of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and who would become, in the early 1980s, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Into that powerful mix, which was kicking around the idea of a regional farm newspaper, stir in the wife and mother of a large Eastern Shore farm family who just happened to be a crackerjack advertising sales person, and finally, add Jim McFadden
Jim was the regional sales representative for the Chevron Co. and was marketing Chevron’s product called Paraquat, a burn-down herbicide and a critical element in the no-till production process.
“The no-till revolution” was just emerging from the trenches in Maryland and Delaware. McFadden was criss-crossing Delmarva, telling farmers, in the words of Thomas Jefferson that “the men who till the soil are God’s noblemen” and urging them to put away their plows “and stop tearing at the bosom of Mother Earth.”
He turned to the then-young Delmarva Farmer to handle his advertising and coupled with his passion for the Holy Scriptures, for the history and forefathers of this country and with his masterful salesmanship, made him Chevron’s first $3 million salesman and earned him the appellation of “the father of the no-till revolution.”
* * *
Daughter Carolyn, a trained nurse, says her father takes full credit for the successful launch of The Delmarva Farmer — “100 percent” she said.
Until recently, he looked forward eagerly to the arrival of the paper every week and the family was instructed to bring it at once to his bedside.
“He used to be able to look through it but we would have to read it to him,” Carolyn said. He called it “the greatest paper in the nation.”
Then recently, Carolyn said, he took what she called “a downslide.”
She found the paper crumpled by the side of the bed.
“You might as well stop sending him the paper,” Carolyn said to me. “It’s out of his comprehension.”
Tears welled up on my eyes. “I can’t do that yet,” I told her.
My mind swirled back to years long ago. “It’s too early.”
I paused. “Don’t you have a cat or a dog?”
“No, but I have a woodstove. I will start the fire every morning with it.”
That fits, I thought. farm families will understand that.