This volume began in the fall of 1988 when Georg Jakob from Jacobs Suchard, the coffee and chocolate company based in Zurich, stopped in my Cambridge office. The company was about to finish the remodeling of Marbach Castle on Lake Constance as its new executive development center and wanted to inaugurate the new facility with a conference in August 1989. What would be an appropriate topic and how should the conference be organized?
Most academics have a "dream conference" in the back of their minds, and I am no exception. We discussed several topics that related to agricultural development, commodity trade, changing patterns of consumer tastes for food, and the interaction between the public and private sectors in developed and developing economies. I promised to outline in more detail two possible conference topics; he agreed to try them out in Zurich. I put them in the mail the next day.
Nothing happened for two months. Then Georg came to visit again and brought the news that the company had approved a conference on the role of government in agricultural development and would like me to organize it. An ample budget would allow leading scholars to contribute original papers, both to stimulate discussion at the conference and to produce a high-quality book to serve as an academic standard for future Marbach Conferences. The challenge was irresistible. Carol, my wife and long-time editor, and I set out to arrange a series of papers, discussants, and participants for the conference that would meet the expectations of Jacobs Suchard.