Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month: W.R. Poage and the Work of Agriculture

You might not have heard, but June is National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month. Throughout the month, the United States Department of Agriculture encourages consumers to eat more fresh fruits and veggies and teaches people around the nation about the benefits that come from eating healthy. It’s also a great time to think about the people who grow, pick, and distribute the fruits and vegetables we eat every day.

Even though June gives us a special opportunity to focus on fresh fruits and veggies, we at the Poage Library have fruits and veggies on our minds quite a bit. That’s because the Baylor Collection of Political Materials houses the papers (and much more) of W. R. Poage, a longtime Texas congressman, advocate for farmers in Texas and all over the U.S., and the namesake for our library. Called “Mr. Agriculture” by many, Poage focused his energy on agriculture throughout his long political career. He served on the House Committee on Agriculture and was elected chairman of the Committee in 1967, serving in this role until 1975.

Congressman W.R. Poage (far right) observing a fruit tree in Ethiopa.

Congressman Poage frequently made trips, both foreign and domestic, with the Department of Agriculture and worked as an advocate for those producing and distributing fruits and vegetables. The Bob Poage collection in our archives reveals his concern for and knowledge of all aspects of agriculture. These materials also help to show the important connection between the work of growers and distributors of fruits and vegetables and the laws passed by the federal government. By exploring the letters and memos in the Poage collection, you can see how attuned Poage and his staff were to the important role the government plays in supporting those who provide the country access to healthy food.

As the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Poage fielded questions and concerns from individuals and groups from all over the U.S. Moreover, the papers in the Poage collection show that a number of his colleagues directed questions to Poage for his insight into issues surrounding fruits and vegetables.

Two of the many letters Congressman Poage received in regards to fruits and vegetables.

The variety of letters Poage received about fruits and vegetables is striking. For instance, one letter from a woman in New York asks Poage to consider the price of fresh vegetables in her area. Another series of letters, correspondence between Poage’s office and the Standard Fruit and Steamship Company, discusses the proper names for bananas on government documents. In each case, Poage and those who worked for him attend to the particular needs of the person writing his office. These materials also reveal that Poage thoughtfully considered the full agricultural process. He not only worked with growers and distributors. Poage also communicated with individual consumers who were concerned about their fruits and vegetables.

The Bob Poage papers in the Baylor Collection of Political Materials provide insight into the work that goes into the consumption of fruits and vegetables, a helpful reminder when celebrating National Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Month. As the gap between production and consumption of food becomes wider, this peek into history through Poage’s papers shows that it takes the time and effort of real people to put fresh fruits and vegetables on our plates.

2 thoughts on “Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month: W.R. Poage and the Work of Agriculture

  1. Ben: Very good work. You are using the collections as they should be used. Mr. Poage wanted a working library, and you are demonstrating that it is such.

    I worked for Mr. Poage for well over 20 years. I believe the photo accompanying your article was taken in 1964. If so, I was a part of that African visit. I think the other gentleman in a suit is Representative Ralph Harvey of Indiana.

    Thank you for making this collection work for the benefit of all of us.

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