April 13, 2001
University of Wisconsin, Platteville

The life of Hugh Hammond Bennett, the greatest soil conservation evangelist of all time, was celebrated with a lively Chautauqua style meeting, at the University of Wisconsin, Platteville.   Bennett's untiring efforts to fight soil erosion and create a soil conservation movement prompted Congress in 1933 to create a new federal agency, the Soil Erosion Service (later Soil Conservation Service, and now the Natural Resources Conservation Service). He led the agency from 1933 until 1951.

This celebration marked the 120th anniversary of Bennett's birth. The all-day event featured live music from Warren Nelson's Big Top Chautauqua and a re-enactment of the original 1933 play, "Old Man Erosion", which was performed throughout the Coon Creek Watershed to convince farmers to try conservation.

Many noted national conservationists spoke throughout the day, including Stanley Trimble, Professor, UCLA Dept of Geography; Pearlie Reed Chief of NRCS; Roger Cohee with a memorial speech for his father Mel, one of the original Coon Creek Watershed staff; and many others. Bennett built the now widely-accepted notion of a conservation plan to deal with the ecology of the entire farm, based on soils, agronomy, wildlife, forestry, engineering and economics. He received commendations from the National Audubon Society, American Geographical Society, American Society of Agronomy, and the Garden Clubs of America. He was made an honorary member of the Crow Tribe of Montana, and received recognition from the governments of France, China, Egypt, South Africa and many other nations. Recently, Bennett was one of the first inductees into the USDA Hall of Heroes.
Last updated April 25, 2001 by Owen P. Lee