Ithel Richard Adlard (1915-1997) was born to Walter and Elizabeth Burrows Adlard on October 14th, 1915 in Condon, Oregon. His interest in agriculture was formed early on and continued into his highschool years. The following is an autobiographical note assembled by Julia Needham, editor of the Troy-Built Owner News and a long time correspondent of Adlard, from several of Adlard's letters. This biography was corrected and approved by him in 1995.
As a high-school student during the Depression days in Salem, Oregon, I operated a five-acre fruit and vegetable garden on shares. I raised my own plants, using horse manure for heat and a cover made of cheap muslin impregnated with wax. The vegetables were sold house to house and I netted virtually nothing, but kept busy.
At a Methodist youth meeting, I heard a missionary from Allahabad, India, and set my sights on becoming an agricultural missionary. This idea was further reinforced when I studied biology and learned of Mendel's Law. I had a most inspirational biology teacher, Martin Elle, who encouraged me, even though I had little financially.
I got to Oregon State University (then college) where I worked part-time in the greenhouse through a government program for students. This was part of President Roosevelt's New Deal, intended to help college students during the national Depression. We had meaningful jobs at 25 cents per hour.
One morning my roommate read about an opening for an exchange student to Canton, China. I didn't know where Canton was, but checked it out and submitted my application along with several written recommendations. Much to my surprise, I won the Phi Kappa Phi scholarship and in 1937, at age 21, became a student at Lingnan University.
I was the first exchange student in agriculture; the others over the preceding three years had been in the social science and humanities. I was fortunate enough to study under Dr. Floyd A. McClure, a Rhodes scholar and world authority on bamboo, with whom I had biweekly conferences or field trips by bicycle to observe the methods used by local farmers. My textbook was Farmers of Forty Centuries by F.H. King (1848-1911), now available from Rodale Press.
In 1937, the year of my arrival, the Japanese bombed our university, thus disrupting our studies. Four exchange students stayed on while seventeen returned home.
When the American ship on which we sailed docked at Yokohama in 1938, the Japanese authorities came into my stateroom looking for pictures. They had probably seen my article predicting that Japan would take over the Philippines, which my roommate had translated for the Canton paper. Anticipating trouble while at sea, however, I had hidden my bamboo basket of negatives and other materials in a lifeboat along with a broadsword used in executions. After leaving Yokohama, I was relieved to find my belongings still in the boat.
After returning from China, I worked for Oregon State Department of Agriculture when not attending intermittent terms at Oregon State, thus prolonging the completion of my degree in crop science. I devoted all my spare time to the national, "stop war supplies to Japan", movement under the leadership of Dr. Walter Judd, former missionary to China and Senator for Minnesota, whom I met on the boat-trip home. In fact, I spent too much time on this effort and became quite bitter over Americans' "not our business" attitude and the reluctance of colleges and churches to take a stand.
When the draft for one-year training began, I drew Number 17 locally, one year short of finishing college. No draft board appeal process had yet been set up , so I was drafted into the Army in March, 1941, and discharged in August, 1945. I finished my senior year at OSC after returning home. Thereafter, I went to work for the US Soil Conservation Service, and later became an Extension Agent.
What I had learned of traditional Chinese agriculture was all but forgotten during many years of my working life. In the late 1960s, however, the environmental movement and the growing interest in organic food production recalled them to my mind, and I realized that much of modern organic practice was what I had observed in China under an agricultural system that has been used for 4,000 years.
With my interest reawakened, I began to undertake some of the traditional Chinese techniques in my own garden in Stevenson, Washington, located in the Columbia River Gorge about 30 miles east of Vancouver, Washington. I have continued to experiment in retirement, as time and health permit." Adlard Biographical Information, Adlard Collection, Archives Center
Adlard married his wife Evelyn in 1947, they had two sons. Adlard died on August 22, 1997 in Vancouver, Washington.