SALINA, Kan. — Wes Jackson, co-founder of The Land Institute, will step down as president next June. That point on the calendar marks Jackson’s 80th birthday and the 40th anniversary of the Salina, Kansas-based nonprofit organization devoted to developing an alternative to current destructive agriculture practices by advancing perennial grain crops and polyculture farming solutions.
The organization’s board of directors has begun a national search for a successor.
Jackson said his resignation as president should not be seen as full retirement. He plans to continue working with The Land Institute and promoting natural systems agriculture and other environmental issues.
Scientists at The Land Institute, along with colleagues elsewhere, have demonstrated that modeling agriculture after the prairie and other natural ecosystems significantly reduces the need for tillage and chemicals, improves water efficiency, and protects and enriches soil, which Jackson describes as more important than oil.
Angus Wright, chairman of The Land Institute’s board, said Jackson “has created a new vision for agriculture that is truly revolutionary in its implications and carried that vision far toward fruition.”
The organization has an annual budget of $5.3 million, most of which is raised from a national constituency of individual donors and supporters. Its 16 board members hail from 11 states. Assets, which include 691 acres of Kansas land, research labs, breeding nurseries and a greenhouse, total $17 million.
Jackson said he is pleased that natural systems agriculture is evolving into a global movement, allowing The Land Institute to build collaborations with universities, governments and research organizations on six continents to pursue its mission. Among those collaborations is a new agreement with the Malone Family Land Preservation Foundation that established a 15-year, independent Perennial Agriculture Project that dovetails with The Land Institute research.
With the organization having a strong financial footing, seasoned and creative staff and global recognition, this is an auspicious time to turn over the reins, Jackson said.
The selection of a new president is headed by a board-appointed committee, which has retained a San Francisco, Calif., executive search firm, California Environmental Associates, to run the recruitment. Wright, of Sacramento, Calif., chairs the selection committee.
“As Wes at age 80 is ready to turn over the presidency to someone else, we on the board are searching for a person who is ready and able to pursue the vision of natural systems agriculture and perennial polycultures with the same energy, insight, and dedication as Wes has done for forty years,” Wright said.
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