Friday, October 1, 2010

News From the 2010 Annual Land Institute's "Prairie Festival"

I enjoyed my first Prairie Festival last weekend. The Land Institute's grounds were interesting in a making history kind of way as The Land's purpose is to perfect the development of perennial grains which could be used world-wide, transforming agriculture as we know it. Everywhere, I saw various seed heads covered with bags and tied to collect this year's maturing genetic material.

I met many interesting people, even from my own county, and the presentations were first-rate. Yes, I had to drive to Eastern Kansas to meet people from Boulder. The event was well-organized and had an "attitude" you couldn't beat.

For some essential background information, in 2009 Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, and Fred Kirschenmann traveled to Washington D.C. and met with White House officials to propose their 50-Year Farm Bill. [pdf] I encourage readers here to read this document, if you haven't already. To read a Washington-Post Q&A of the three-some explaining their mission, read "3 Wise Men, Planting Ideas Where it Counts".

The very funny master of ceremonies, Ken Warren, preceded this year's festival talks by telling the speakers to doom it down this year as past year's talks have been too doomer. He also made an announcement which proclaimed to be a message from the American Luddite Society. Agricultural investment "guru" Jim Rogers was no where to be found.

Rather amazingly, the first person I met when I arrived at the festival was The Land's visionary founder and plant geneticist, Wes Jackson. Let's just say the event was the highest quality in Midwestern unpretentious and smart friendliness while entertaining and teaching us of the things that really matter today, complete with darn-good folk music.

Salina's newspaper did a good job of writing up the highlights, so I've linked them below. (I took the first four photos used in this post.)
  1. This link is the summary of the Prairie Festival talk by Wendell Berry. "You can't expect a minimal farm population, minimally paid and struggling for survival, to be conservationists," he said. Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson's friendship goes way back. []
  2. We were given a tour of the brand new $2 million dollar facility at the nonprofit Land Institute last weekend which will house their research labs, offices, and tornado proof seed vaults. []
  3. Kernza, a perennial wheat flour, low in gluten, was sold at the Prairie Festival for the first time. Kernza is higher in protein, omega-3 fat, calcium, folate, and bran than traditional wheat. (I ate a bar/cookie they sold using the product when I was there last weekend and it tasted fine.) []
  4. Another highlight of the event was listening to speaker Dr. Josh Farley, ecological economist from the University of Vermont. Farley teaches why a new economic model is necessary, one which focuses upon rewarding the overall good of humanity and one that emphasizes the quality of life, instead of an endless non-sustainable growth model based upon the short sighted consumption of natural resources. His talk, and nearly every talk at the conference emphasized our relationship with fossil fuels and the need for that relationship to change. []

Note that copies of talks can be purchased from the Land Institute. For information on becoming a "Friend of the Land", click here.

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