Transforming Agriculture, Perennially


Alexandra Griffin

Research Resident

Alexandra Griffin came to The Land Institute from New York City, where she went to Bard High School Early College.  She will be graduating in December from Williams College in western Massachusetts, where she majored in biology, with a focus on plant sciences and ecology.  Alexandra did her senior thesis on pollination, which has helped with her work here. At TLI, as she has worked mostly on silphium – which has big, beautiful yellow flowers – and its interactions with both beneficial and harmful insects, from pollinators to pests such as the moth Eucosma giganteana.


What drew you to work at TLI?

Many things! The potential of perennial polycultures to transform agricultural systems and also an excitement about research, which can ask and (sometimes) answer elegant questions about ecology, evolution, genetics, and physiology, while simultaneously breeding a real-life plant which can be planted, grown, shared, and eaten. I also came to TLI because I wanted to work with and learn from scientists, educators, and thinkers who embrace difficult questions, love land and place, and are committed to building a more just world.

What would people never guess that you do as part of your role at TLI?

I cross-pollinate flowers by dusting pollen onto their stigmas with a pipe cleaner. To facilitate germination, I then sing or whistle “Sunrise, Sunset” (from Fiddler on the Roof).

What is your motto / favorite quote?

The character Takver, from Ursula Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed,” is very special to me. She’s described here: “Her concern with landscapes and living creatures was passionate… There are souls, he thought, whose umbilicus has never been cut. They never got weaned from the universe. They do not understand death as an enemy; they look forward to rotting and turning into humus. It was strange to see Takver take a leaf into her hand, or even a rock. She became an extension of it, it of her. ”


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