Transforming Agriculture, Perennially


Emma Flemmig

Grants Project Manager

Emma is from Glidden, Iowa and now lives in Salina, Kansas. She has a B.S. in Agronomy from Iowa State University and an M.S. in Crop Science from North Carolina State University. Before coming to The Land Institute, Emma moved from a research background in plant breeding into monitoring and evaluation and project development activities, primarily working in grant writing and international project support.


What work experiences on your resume are most relevant to your position at TLI? How so?
I was a summer fieldhand at TLI in 2007 and 2009. I earned the dubious distinction of “the only one that ever came back for more,” during an era when the Land Institute was recalibrating its internship programs. Those two summers I spent almost exclusively toiling behind a hoe in the breeding plots helped me gain empathy and insight into how agriculture became what it is today—both in the industrial world and the Global South. It also gave me insight into the value of scientific support staff, so I pursued graduate education in plant breeding with the long-term goal of working in fundraising and administration on behalf of agricultural scientists.

What drew you to work at TLI?
The more parts of the world I lived in, the more I felt compelled to “clean up my own backyard.” It is impossible to work in international agriculture and not see how the U.S. agricultural industry strongly influences significant problems overseas. Iowa is to corn production globally, what Kansas arguably is to wheat production—a symbolic beating heart of the industrial agricultural system. I have deep roots in the Midwest, in this system; I like to think that I was drawn back here because all my attempts to “transplant” failed.

What has been your proudest moment at TLI?
The second summer I worked at TLI and once I had decided that I would pursue graduate studies in plant breeding, Stan, David, and Lee repeatedly refused to believe my promise that I would be back someday. They believed that I would not be able to pull myself out of my “glamorous” life of extensive traveling in international agriculture to return to central Kansas. So after more than 10 years of doing international work, the only thing more fun than telling them they were wrong – is being back with them and participating in the continued growth of the Land Institute.

What else are you passionate about (outside of work)?
All fiber arts & crafts – knitting, embroidery, quilting, etc. – my next big project is going to be learning to weave and macramé for the creation of large soil profile hangings…obviously profiles with deep roots!

What’s your motto / favorite quote?
“Wòch nan dlo pa konnen doulè wòch nan solely.”
“The rocks in the water don’t know the suffering of the rocks in the sun.” — Haitian proverb
Haitian Creole is full of amazing expressions and proverbs, but this one always reminds me to judge less.

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