Today was National Agriculture Day. Many editorials were written and ceremonies were held to mark the day, but none may have been more fitting than the installation of the statue of Dr. Norman Borlaug in the U.S. Capitol.
The unveiling – Borlaug is one of two Iowans honored with such statues – occurred on what would have been the 100th birthday of the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Borlaug, considered by many to be the “Father of the Green Revolution,” was born near Cresco, Iowa, on March 25, 1914.
Perhaps one of the most honored members of the agricultural community – he is one of seven people to receive the Nobel Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal – few know how close Borlaug came to leaving college and not finishing his degree at the University of Minnesota.
Noel Vietmeyer, one of Borlaug’s biographers, recounts how Borlaug and his future wife, Margaret, worked their way through college, often taking jobs as waiters. The jobs were not so much for the money, although any earnings were important, but because their “pay” often included a meal at the restaurant.
Norman Borlaug, of course, finished college and earned multiple degrees, but Margaret dropped out of the University of Minnesota in 1936 because, she said, “I’m sick of going to bed hungry.”
She found a job, and the next year, she and Norman were married. Borlaug went on to finish his doctorate and work as an agronomist for the Rockefeller Foundation in Mexico and India, discovering and developing new wheat varieties that became the basis of the Green Revolution.