Transforming Agriculture, Perennially


Kelsey Whiting

Perennial Grain Policy and Government Affairs, Postdoctoral Researcher

Like many plants, Kelsey Whiting*, Ph.D., is adapted to a broad range of climates. She currently lives in Minnesota but was born and raised in Texas. Kelsey received her undergraduate degree from Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas where she emphasized ecology and prairie restoration research in her honors thesis. Kelsey then began her Ph.D. with Dr. Yaniv Brandvain at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. There, she earned her doctorate in the Plant and Microbial Biology department, completing a dissertation that investigated useful traits for plant breeding, such as pest and pathogen tolerance, in wild populations of the perennial oilseed and forage crop silflower. Kelsey started her career at The Land Institute as a research intern. After her time as a summer intern, where she worked on all the perennial grains and oilseeds being developed at The Land Institute, she became a Research Technician with Dr. David Van Tassel, the Lead Scientist in the organization’s Perennial Oilseeds program. There, she learned skills in greenhouse management, research plot planting, weeding, maintenance, and data collection. She also learned how to keep seedlings alive during a Kansas drought and discovered the inner workings of a plant breeding program at a non-profit organization. This gave Kelsey a unique viewpoint of research during her years in graduate school where she further developed her understanding of plant breeding, evolution, and ecology.

*Publishes as Kelsey Peterson


What drew you to work at TLI?

The community, partners, and the collaborators who work with The Land Institute. The idea that we are, collectively, working on something that could benefit not only our generation — but future generations.

What’s most inspiring about your specific position at The Land Institute?

Ensuring that scientific findings and research find footing in the real world. The applied benefits of agricultural research to farmers, the land, and all of us who depend on them are enormous, yet the translation from research programs to the landscape can be slow. I hope our work helps speed this process and allows for meaningful communication of research findings to everyone who could benefit.

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

I have an identical twin who is also a doctor, but unlike me, she’s the kind of doctor you’d actually want in a medical emergency (She works in Houston).

What else are you passionate about outside of work? 

I enjoy great pasta. I might even be more of a pasta fan than Edy Chérémond, but we have yet to study this in depth. We need more data.

What’s your motto/favorite quote?

“Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.

Say that your main crop is the forest

that you did not plant,

that you will not live to harvest.” -Wendell Berry

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



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