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Fostering Sustainable Agriculture through Research, Education and Policy since 1984

History of Michael Fields

Michael Fields Agricultural Institute was founded by three individuals: Christopher and Martina Mann and Ruth Zinniker. Those who have become involved with the Institute might call the three of them dreamers. Others might refer to the three as idealists or purists, but regardless of how they are viewed, all three were passionate about reclaiming the health of the soil. All three founders knew if the soil is healthy, full of organic matter, minerals and nutrients in the natural form, the food we all eat will be better for us.

Christopher, Martina and Ruth always played an active role in the life of the Institute. The three of them all served as Board Members for many, many years. Martina and Christopher lived and resided in a big farm house at the Institute. Christopher managed the land and the livestock while Martina started a bakery. Ruth Zinniker who lived just down the road on the oldest biodynamic farm in America was also very involved in the Institute. She lived the life of a true biodynamic farmer and worked side by side in the fields and the barn with her husband, Richard.

Contemporary “industrial” agriculture concentrates power, land and wealth in the hands of a few large corporations or, more commonly called, corporate family farms. Contemporary farming is wiping out diversity (just the opposite of biodynamic farming) in the name of short term profit. It will, we believe, ultimately undermine humanity’s ability to sustain a large population. Despite the argument that we need contemporary technology to feed the world, Christopher, Martina, and Ruth instinctively knew large amounts of inorganic fertilizer would pollute the groundwater and the effects of pesticides on the environment would also affect insect, animal and human health.

Organic and biodynamic agriculture blend the older ways of farming while using modern research (one of Michael Fields three program areas) to showcase the best in agriculture and the best in human nature. Christopher, Martina and Ruth understood this philosophy and demonstrated it in the way they lived their lives.

Throughout the last 33 plus years, Martina, Christopher, and Ruth have helped shape not only the East Troy community, but the rural landscape of Southeast Wisconsin. At all times, they’ve had the best interests of their local community in mind and have invested heavily to help build the reputation of Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and its impact on all types of agriculture in the United States.

Two of the three founders have crossed the threshold from this life to the next. Christopher now carries the torch singlehandedly and leads the charge for a better kind of agriculture. Michael Fields Agricultural Institute is a special place because of the dreams of these three individuals. Instead of eliminating farmers, farm workers and rural communities, organic and biodynamic agriculture bring together socially and politically different viewpoints in a common cause to care for the soil, produce nutrient dense food and strong, vibrant communities.

Thank you, Christopher, Martina and Ruth Zinniker for reminding all of us that an individual’s most valuable contributions can and should manifest themselves in work that promotes what is good for the whole and not just the individual.

“The planet does not need more successful people.  The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kind.”  Dalai Lama