Haven’t Heard of Kernza?
As a teenager growing up on a corn and soybean farm on the outskirts of Albert Lea, Minnesota, Lee DeHaan (M.S. ’00, Ph.D. ‘01) remembers having plenty of opportunities to contemplate what he would eventually view as the shortcomings of traditional agriculture. “I spent hundreds of hours on a tractor tilling fields and burning fuel,” he says in a wry tone that makes it clear he’s understating matters. “I realized what we were doing wasn’t good for the soil.”
It was the 1980s—the height of the farm crisis—and many of the farmers in DeHaan’s community were losing their land. Some urged their children not to go into a profession that had been passed down for generations. DeHaan’s father sold their farm to an investor and then farmed it for the rest of his career as a manager under contract.