Transforming Agriculture, Perennially

Media Coverage

Our Turn At This Earth: Wes Jackson and the Land Institute

Publication: HPPR

Author: Angie Haflich

Often at meetings concerning the future of the Ogallala Aquifer, I have questioned the wisdom of using precious groundwater to grow corn. Farmers who make their livings growing that crop understandably take issue with this point of view. One time, a farmer told me point blank that I didn’t know what I was talking about.

“You just need to be educated,” he said.

An old farm neighbor of mine, who knew me pretty well, spoke up. “She’s educated, just down a different avenue.”

I was touched that my old neighbor had come to my defense. And the fact that a member of his conventional, industrial ag school of thought could recognize and respect my sustainable ag school of thought gave me hope that communication between these divergent views is possible.

That so little of that communication seems to take place in Kansas strikes me as ironic, since Wes Jackson, a famous leader in the international sustainable ag movement, is a dyed-in-the-wool Kansan. Yet few people from my western half of the state have ever heard of Wes.

When I lived there, I had never heard of him either. It wasn’t until I began to get educated in that different avenue of mine, at the University of Iowa, that I learned about Wes and the Land Institute he co-founded near Salina. The work done there is ground-breaking in the figurative sense of the word, but the opposite of ground-breaking in the literal sense.

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