Thomas and Pamela Saunders Papers, 1974-1993 (bulk 1979-1989)

Scope and Content Note


The bulk of the papers in the collection relate to Tom Saunders. Researchers interested in papers related to Pam Saunders should look at the folders for the Barron Electric Cooperative, People Against Nuclear Energy (PANE), and Farmers United for Safe Energy (FUSE).

The BIOGRAPHICAL series includes articles written about Tom Saunders work as a farm activist, as well as a folder regarding relationships with labor unions and other groups with which he saw possibilities for coalition building, and a flyer for his pottery business.

The CORRESPONDENCE series includes incoming and outgoing correspondence, notably from Paul Gilk, a farmer and Labor-Farm Party (LFP) candidate for elected office; and Meridel Le Sueur, a writer and radical political activist. Included with the Gilk correspondence is an LFP discussion paper, authored by Gilk, on appropriate technology. Other correspondence is included throughout the collection, particularly in the organizational files of groups with which Tom and Pam Saunders were involved.

The ENERGY/NUCLEAR POWER series includes papers related to various groups (People Against Nuclear Energy (PANE), People for Safe Energy (PSE), Farmers United for Safe Energy (FUSE), and other organizations) concerned with the risks of nuclear energy, particularly the effects of low-level radiation on milk produced on dairy farms situated near nuclear power stations; and the controversy over the proposed Tyrone nuclear power station near Durand, Wisconsin. Also included is correspondence regarding energy conservation and annual meeting materials for the Barron Electric Cooperative (BEC), of which the Saunders were members; and materials related to Pam Saunders' candidacy for a directorship with the BEC.

The FARM ORGANIZATIONS series is arranged by group, consisting primarily of papers relating to: National Save the Family Farm Coalition (NSFFC), North American Farm Alliance (NAFA), and Wisconsin Farm Unity Alliance (WFUA), organizations in which Tom Saunders was actively involved.

The National Save the Family Farm Coalition (NSFFC) papers includes meeting minutes, a briefing book on the farm crisis, papers concerning the National Rural Crisis Action Campaign, and committee files related to pricing and sustainable agriculture.

The North American Farm Alliance (NAFA) papers document the activities of an umbrella organization of which the WFUA was a part, and includes meeting materials, committee files, and specific campaign activities such coalition building with other groups, such as labor unions, African-American farmers, and farmers across the world. The Executive Director's reports are particularly helpful in documenting these activities. Also of note are materials relating to the Parity Lobby, a project designed to encourage grassroots political lobbying by farmers that would be funded by a one-cent per hundred-weight checkoff on milk. Other papers relating to the parity issue (purchasing power related to the cost of production versus the prices a farmer ultimately receives for a product), a prominent theme in the papers, can be found in the subject files and with the National Organization for Raw Materials (NORM) files under the OTHER ORGANIZATIONS series.

The Wisconsin Farm Unity Alliance (WFUA) is the most extensively documented farm organization in the collection, and provides the strongest documentation of Tom Saunders' work and the issues with which he was most engaged, notably building coalitions with labor unions, African American farmers, and farmers in Central America, as well as supporting farmland preservation and Ojibwe spear fishing treaty rights in his role as President of the Wisconsin Farm Conservancy, originally a project of WFUA. Also documented is his work on behalf of federal legislation benefiting family farms.

The OTHER ORGANIZATIONS series includes additional organizations with which Tom Saunders was engaged: the Coordinating Committee for Responsible Bio-Technology, an organization concerned with the recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) issue and animal patenting; the Sustainable Agriculture Working Group; and various rural advocacy organizations.

The WRITINGS series includes essays, editorials, commentaries for public radio, and a speech, in addition to various drafts and notes.

The SUBJECT FILES series includes topics of interest to multiple farm organizations, such as the Farm Credit Crisis, the Federal Reserve System, debt restructuring, biotechnology, and various legislative initiatives related to these issues. Many of the farm organizations in the collection were involved to some extent on many of these issues. The files on the Production Credit Association (PCA) include information on the action in Mondovi, Wisconsin, on December 1, 1982 that ultimately led to the formation of the Wisconsin Farm Unity Alliance. Also of interest are a few materials relating to the platforms of candidates for President in 1988, particularly the Rev. Jesse Jackson, as well as the Democratic and Republican nominees, and their views on issues of concern to rural voters.