Transforming Agriculture, Perennially


Dan Patel


Dan Patel grew up in New Jersey, but after spending four years at UCLA earning a Bachelors in Environmental Science, he feels there is a lot of California in him too. This is his first time doing hands-on agricultural work of any kind, but his interest in the field goes back at least a few years. For his senior thesis at UCLA, he was a part of a team that evaluated the suitability of offshore aquaculture for six of the top ten countries with the greatest biological potential in their coastal areas. He says, “Global agriculture is in need of a few big changes over the next few decades, but there are so many exciting ways that these changes could happen. I love thinking about the big-picture ways they could come about, and TLI is one of the real solutions we have.”


What drew you to work at TLI?

Definitely the mission. Perennial polyculture would completely change the relationship that humanity has with our land.

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

As a part of our Integrated Pest Management program, we at TLI are gaining a foundational understanding of the pests that threaten our perennial crops. Shunning the conventional approach of treating pests as our enemies, I’ve come to think of them as friends I just haven’t made yet. I’ve spent weeks straight out in our test plots living alongside Eucosma caterpillars, learning their language and culture. Since their lives are but a few months long, they are much quicker to trust than humans. I’ve now begun to teach them about our mission at TLI, and they are beginning to understand the importance of our work. They have meager means, but the support of their community means far more than money.

What TLI perennial crop do you look forward to eating most, and how would you prepare it?

I’ve been lucky enough to get some Kernza® from Lee “King Kernza” DeHaan, and I made some tasty sourdough following his recipe. I’ll definitely be making it again and maybe even some pancakes!

What’s one aspect of your life history that most people don’t know or wouldn’t expect?

None of my extended family live in the U.S, and most of them are split between India and Sweden.

What is your motto / favorite quote?

“It’s easier to put on a pair of shoes than it is to wrap the earth in leather.” – Chogyam Trungpa

What were you like at age 10?

I think I was a know-it-all. I liked to read and was just starting to play lacrosse, which I would play for eight years after.

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