Transforming Agriculture, Perennially


Ethan Van Valkenburg


Ethan VanValkenburg spent most of the past two years living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He grew up in Grand Rapids, but says all of the forests, lakes, and rivers of the Great Lakes Region will always be his home ground. He just finished his second year at The University of Michigan where he is pursuing a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Ethan’s studies have allowed him to spend a summer at the University of Michigan Biological Field Station to study the ecological impacts of dam removals and to travel to the Mojave Desert as a field assistant in a biogeography and paleoecology lab.


What work experiences on your resume are most relevant to your position at TLI? How so?
This past summer I worked at Tantré Farm in Chelsea, MI tending to dozens of varieties of organic vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, herbs, and spices. My summer started with plenty of asparagus harvesting, my new favorite perennial vegetable.

What would people never guess that you do as part of your role at TLI?
You’d be surprised by the joys of threshing single heads of perennial wheatgrass. Each genotype differs from the previous, and after a few hours and hundreds of samples you notice even the most subtle characteristics.

What drew you to work at TLI?
The Land Institute kept appearing in books I was reading for classes and for pleasure. I was drawn to the emphasis on natural systems and ecology in developing a new perennial agriculture. It was even more inspiring to see the progress towards such an ambitious goal.

What TLI perennial crop do you look forward to eating most, and how would you prepare it?
Last week I tasted a slice of sourdough made from Kernza! I’m excited for my own future loafs, sandwiches, and pastas made from a perennial grain. 

What else are you passionate about (outside of work)?
I treasure my bicycle and every opportunity I get to ride it. Ann Arbor was an excellent bike town, and I’m finding that this part of Kansas isn’t too bad either.

Support the work of Ethan and others at The Land Institute with a donation.


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