Gordon Berg: Inspirational Editor Left A Legacy Of Excellence
Gordon L. Berg was the editor of Farm Chemicals magazine (now CropLife) for 25 years, from 1961 to 1985 during a period of great technological expansion with fertilizers, pesticides and application equipment. It was a time when agriculture was under almost daily attack from environmentalists and others who feared change and made doomsday predictions. In every monthly issue, Berg took up his pen to refute these claims and to fight for a strong industry, a strong agriculture and a strong America.
He was born in Reeder, ND, a town with a population of less than 200. His parents were strong Norwegian people who cultivated the land from “soddy” houses, or worked on the railroad as it pushed its way through the prairie to the Northwest. A graduate of South Dakota State University, Berg brought that tough pioneer spirit based on self reliance, hard work and a spirit of optimism to his writings for Farm Chemicals.
When he was called a “Wild Turkey” by the Government’s Environmental Protection Agency, Berg formed a Wild Turkey Club and appointed himself as Chief Gobbler to encourage industry support for reasonable regulations that would not stifle farm productivity. Always a fighter, when he retired he said: “I intend to keep on ruffling feathers and fighting for a strong agriculture and a strong America.”
He hated “weasel” words which he described as intentionally misleading and ambiguous. We must be honest and forthright, he claimed, and we must be careful how we choose our words.
Berg started choosing his words with care at an early age. When he finished high school, he started a newspaper and was its editor, printer and salesman. Then he hired onto another newspaper and was proud of his skill at running a linotype machine which set type from hot metal.
He enlisted in the Army in l943, and, later, was one of the few remaining survivors of the Battle of the Bulge, where he fought with the 191st Field Artillery Battalion, 3rd Army. After the war, he wrote a history of the 191st Battalion.
Words and writing were his love and passion. After Ag College, he became an extension editor at Penn State University, and then editor of locally published Everybody’s Poultry magazine. Later he moved to Philadelphia to take the reins of County Agent and Vo Ag Teacher magazine and Farm Chemicals. When these titles were purchased by Meister Publishing Co., he moved with them to Willoughby.
Gordon was a spirited leader of both magazines. He led the transformation of County Agent and Vo Ag Teacher to a new title, Ag Consultant, and a new focus on the rapidly expanding growth of independent crop consultants, championing their services to agriculture. For this, he was named a Lifetime Member of the National Association of Independent Crop Consultants. But it was in Farm Chemicals that his strong and often opinionated editorials challenged the industry to never be satisfied with the status quo.
Gordon Berg lived the American Dream which started in that small town in North Dakota and moved to the national and world stage in agriculture. He had a mission born in the hardness of the prairie life, a mission that found its fulfillment in the leadership of American agriculture during the tumultuous days when U.S. agriculture was called on to lead the world on the path to Food Security.