Transforming Agriculture, Perennially


Siena Polk

Post-Baccalaureate Researcher, Ecosphere Studies

Siena Polk, who has a B.A. in International Studies with a focus on comparative development and a minor in Food Studies from the University of Oregon, grew up in Ketchum, Idaho and considers Idaho’s mountains her home. In school she gravitated towards studying global social and environmental issues as both areas gave her a deep appreciation of the complexity and interconnectedness of the issues we face as humans living in the modern day. Much of her education in food production and food systems have been self-initiated and experiential, ranging from WWOOFing, to working at FOOD for Lane County’s Youth Farm, to working as an intern at TLI in 2019. These experiences have allowed her to learn directly from farmers, community leaders, and researchers while developing practical skills and bigger-picture awareness. Here resident work focuses on Ecosphere Studies.


What drew you to work at TLI?
I have always been interested in food systems but coming across an article in The Nation a few years ago about TLI’s work really shifted the way I thought about agriculture. Specifically, I found the concept of modeling food production on diverse native ecosystems revolutionary. I am drawn to and very excited about working with an organization dedicated to realizing a more ecologically sound and socially just agriculture.

What would people never guess that you do as part of your role at TLI?
I am looking forward to helping David and Sydney pollinate silphium this fall. Most of my work in the Ecosphere Studies is online at the moment, so I am really happy to have to opportunity to help out with some fieldwork that’s related to my projects as a resident.

What TLI perennial crop do you look forward to eating most, and how would you prepare it?
Last summer I got to help with the development of some recipes using silphium seeds. I made a silphium “milk” and “tofu.” These early efforts were moderately successful, and I look forward to tasting and experimenting with other peoples’ improvements!

If you were to write a book, what would it be about?
I think the time is right for a dystopian tale about the climate crisis. But one informed by our history with a special emphasis on resilience, hope, and the pursuit of justice in the face of adversity.

What were you like at age 10?
Like a pocket version of my (young) adult self.

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