There’s a lot at stake in the 2010 elections, with more story-lines — and more reactionary ideology on display — than any other mid-term in memory. Democrats are sweating the House and Senate and 37 state houses are up for grabs.

Given the possibility of a Tea Party ascendancy, the race for secretary of agriculture in Iowa might seem an obscure topic for most non-Iowans. But there may not be a more important contest this year for farmers and food activists nationwide. That’s why Iowa Secretary of Agriculture candidate Francis Thicke has received high-profile endorsements from a slew of activist authors familiar to any Nation reader — Michael Pollan, Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry and Jim Hightower.

As Bonnie Azab Powell wrote in an informative interview with Thicke for Grist, if Thicke manages to unseat incumbent agriculture secretary Bill Northey, it would be a huge win not only for sustainable agriculture in Iowa, but for the nation, and would send a message to Congress as lobbyists and activists begin preping for battle over the next Farm Bill.

Powell ticks off Thicke’s credentials:

"Thicke is a blue-ribbon reform candidate, a combination of down-to-earth Iowa dairyman and professorial, statistics-spouting visionary. He’s been a full-time farmer 27 years, running what’s now a 450-acre farm with 80 cows that he and his wife, Susan, got certified organic in 1993. After a B.A. in music and philosophy, he went back to work on the family farm, then a decade later got a PhD in agronomy/soil fertility; at one point he was the USDA’s National Program Leader for Soil Science. He’s served on the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission and the Iowa Food Policy Council at the appointment of then-governor Tom Vilsack (now the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture), and on the Iowa Organic Standards Board. He’s won several awards for sustainable agriculture and land stewardship."

This video gives a good sense of what Thicke is about.

The clock is ticking. Help support Thicke this week if you can. For every $20 donation, his campaign will send you a copy of his new book, A New Vision for Iowa Food and Agriculture: Sustainable Agriculture for the 21st Century. Thicke’s camapign is also looking for last-minute volunteers from any state.