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Why is our very food system in jeopardy?

Why has it always undercut the global natural systems on which our life depends?

Agricultural systems to date have taken an industrial and a reductionist approach. The Land Institute recommends some changes.

In all of our work we look to nature: to what nature’s ecosystems have worked out over millennia. Natural systems are flexible. They are resilient to changing conditions. Species and resources are interdependent. The whole is not only greater than the sum of its parts, it is different from a simple sum because of properties that unpredictably emerge at different levels of organization. The endurance of natural ecosystems stands in contrast to the impermanence of extractive industrial systems that have depleted natural resources and human communities.

This mission statement guides us:

When people, land, and community are
as one, all three members prosper;
when they relate not as members
but as competing interests,
all three are exploited.
By consulting Nature as the source
and measure of that membership,
The Land Institute seeks
to develop an agriculture
that will save soil from
being lost or poisoned
while promoting a community life
at once prosperous and enduring.

After more than 30 years of exploration, we have established the feasibility of a perennial polyculture, a grain agriculture of mixtures of perennial plants that mimic the native prairie ecosystem. We call this Natural Systems Agriculture. (You’ll read of this and our other programs in more detail throughout this website.)

No other organization has sought this solution to growing food. After publishing numerous papers in refereed scientific journals, writing books, and making many presentations here and abroad, The Land Institute is receiving attention worldwide for its ideas.

The functions of a natural system, it is now apparent, can be achieved by mimicking its structure. We believe that with additional research, an agriculture that is resilient (and therefore productive over the long term), economical (the need for costly inputs would be significantly diminished), and ecologically responsible is well within reach.

The first impetus to search for a new agriculture was soil loss and soil pollution. Agricultural chemicals poison our soils and our waters and harm all living creatures. Most importantly, a third to half of our topsoil is gone since the opening of our land to agriculture. Natural Systems Agriculture would leave the ground unplowed for years and use few or no chemicals, solving many environmental problems at their root.

We believe the discovered principles of Natural Systems Agriculture will be applicable to other ecosystems as well, especially agro-forestry and fisheries. We are also working on principles for rural human communities whose goal is to thrive within the ecological limits of their places.

Please put your money to work to help us get this work done! The non-profit Land Institute depends on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations. Your tax-deductible contribution of $50 or more will bring our Land Report three times a year, discounts at Land Institute events, information about presentations in your area, and the satisfaction of making possible this work.

Wes Jackson