Transforming Agriculture, Perennially


Jessica Kleoppel

Director of Development

Jessica said home is “This beautiful place now called Lawrence, KS, along the Kaw River and on the ancestral territory of several tribal nations, including the Kaw, Osage, and Shawnee peoples. I grew up in rural Missouri and then spent a decade in Chicago, but I’ve never felt more at home than I do in this prairie place.” Jessica has a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Communications from Loyola University Chicago. She has a communications background, primarily focused on the arts and sustainable architecture. Through these creative, impactful disciplines, she has developed an eye for design and an ear for language. Jessica uses these storytelling skills to connect people with the bold promise of perennial grains.


What’s most inspiring about your specific position at TLI?
The humans doing and supporting this work are, to be cliché, the coolest people on this planet. Each day I get to build relationships with folks who inspire me with their vision, intellect, humor, and compassion.

What drew you to work at TLI?
I grew up in an agricultural community but was never taught about what surrounded me other than the monocultures of corn and soy. Now, I visit my hometown and notice with deep reverence what is threatened but was there all along: scissor-tailed flycatchers on the fence posts, monarch larvae on the under-leaf of roadside milkweed, and elderberries drooping heavy toward the ground.

I’m drawn to The Land Institute’s work building a world where all these inhabitants of the Ecosphere live in harmony with farmers like my dad—who can make a living—in just, caring, knowledgeable communities that accept limits.

What’s one aspect of your life history that most people don’t know or wouldn’t expect?
I still have a great jump shot.

What else are you passionate about (outside of work)?!
I’m passionate about transforming the small plot of Earth I inhabit into one filled with native plants, including plenty of edibles, and teaching my two young sons how to notice, name, and care for who’s around them—animate and inanimate.

What’s your motto / favorite quote?
A line that came to me while gardening, my hands in the soil: You’re on the right path.

What were you like at age 10?
My mom says, “an unassuming leader.” More objectively, I was making straight As and shooting spit balls, visiting the library and exploring creek beds. I’ll go with, “a benevolent dissident,” which still rings true.

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


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