Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Which Buffett Will be at the 2016 Prairie Festival in Kansas this Weekend?

I have a multiple choice style quiz for you.

Which Buffett billionaire will be offering a fundraiser at this weekend's Land Institute Prairie Festival in Salina, Kansas?

A. Is it Warren?

The 86 year old Warren Buffett has an estimated net worth of 65 Billion dollars. In 2006, he announced that he would give away the bulk of his estate to the charity efforts overseen by Bill and Melinda Gates. At the same time he made this announcement, he also gave one billion dollars to the charitable foundations of each of his three children, foundations which he'd begun for them on a much smaller scale many years ago. He wanted each of them to do what they were compelled to do in their own philanthropic way.

No, Warren is not headed for Salina this weekend.

B. Is it Howard?

Omaha's Warren Buffett and his since deceased wife had three children, but the one who gets all of the media attention for agriculture is the middle child, Howard, who farms on a large scale in central Illinois, growing corn, soybeans, and wheat. He is an advocate of no-till farming and also oversees large research farms in Arizona and South Africa. He has held various high level board and director positions for ADM, Conagra Foods, CocaCola and Lindsay Corporations. He's interested in low-cost methods of conservation farming for food insecure Africa, and in other poverty issues. He's been named by his father (in 2011) as the chosen non-executive chairman successor for Berkshire Hathaway.

No, it's not "farmer and conservationist" Howard.

C. Is it Susie?

The oldest Buffett child, Susie, used to have a knitting store in Omaha, and I have set foot inside her shop a time or two. That was a while back, so I'm not sure whether her store is still there. Now, Susie manages her charitable foundation, with a focus on public education, and she's also active in her mother's even larger foundation.

But, no, she isn't the one to appear for the fundraiser, either.

D. Is it Peter?

Yes, it is Warren Buffett's youngest son, Peter, who will be performing his music at the fundraiser in Salina, Kansas this weekend.
Saturday, September 24th at 8-9:30 p.m. — Peter Buffett concert begins at the Stiefel Theatre, featuring a reading by Wendell Berry and music and conversation with Peter and his ensemble. After the show, Peter will sign his best-seller book, “Life Is What You Make It,” in the Stiefel lobby.

Peter Buffett will star in a piano-cello ensemble Saturday evening at the historic Stiefel Theatre in downtown Salina. Between songs, Peter will talk about what it takes to positively shape both individuals and community. (Peter wrote part of the score for Dances with Wolves.) The event will be a fundraiser for The Land.
While many people might ask why and express surprise, when I saw this announcement I recognized it as a perfect fit. I've attended two Prairie Festivals in the past several years, and there's little to compare it to. You can imagine that your feet are sprouting roots which dig into the fall Kansas soils during this earthy event. You'll probably meet The Land's founder, Wes Jackson less than five minutes after you walk in, like I did. While the event appears to be unpretentious you'd also better pay attention to who is seated next to you in the open air barn because it might be a pretty big name like Mark Bittman or Wendell Berry.

Why Peter and The Land?

Because as far as I can tell from my personal observations, Peter quite closely represents the values of the Land Institute.

Peter followed his bliss, which, according to him, was what his parents told him to do. His bliss was music. I witnessed Peter Buffett's talents when I went to his "Spirit - The Seventh Fire" production in large air conditioned tents that seated 750 people, next to the Missouri River in Omaha, Nebraska on a balmy July evening in 2004. We went as a family and took our two very young sons. The evening was magical and I shall never forget it... the dancing, the drumming, the singing and chanting, the story, and the setting. I own the CD and play it frequently to this day, especially when I am doing my art which is painting.

I'd grown up 70 miles away from these Missouri River tents on a Nebraska farm, a farm on which my brother had found a chiselled stone arrowhead, a farm that wasn't too far from "Black Elk Speaks" author and poet laureate John Neihardt's writing desk and cabin. Running was coming into vogue in the 70's and I'd frequently run across the fields to our creek a half mile away with our dog, to my favorite natural area and wild patch. It was not hard for me to imagine what it was like for the hunter gathers who lived there only 150 years before me, because I, too, walked, ran, and lived on the land and I'd learned about their ways of life. The spirit of the land connected us.

Peter and his wife run the NoVo Foundation in NYC which, among other things, helps support young women and prevent violence against them. To learn more about Peter's views on life and philanthropy "the charitable industrial complex", and to help understand why his values are in line with The Land's I recommend this video.

This will be a GREAT event, and I wish I could be there.

MORE, if you are interested and have the time:

  • Song, Cherry Blossom, influenced by William Blake’s poem, Auguries of Innocence.
  • Song, Poison the River, "If the engine is growth...return on investment. And the fuel is efficiency… productivity. The exhaust is… whatever gets in the way."

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