Transforming Agriculture, Perennially

Prairie Festival 2019 - September 27-29, 2019

Save the Date for Prairie Festival 2019 – Sept. 27-29, 2019!

We are excited to announce the dates of this year’s Prairie Festival and our keynote speaker, author and environmentalist, Bill McKibben! Please check back here for more speaker announcements. If you have never attended our festival before, check out presentations from our 2018 speakers here.


Featured presenters:

Photo by Nancie Battaglia

Bill McKibben, author and environmentalist, was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the ‘alternative Nobel’ in 2014. His 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and has appeared in 24 languages; he’s gone on to write a dozen more books. He is a founder of, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement, which has organized twenty thousand rallies around the world in every country save North Korea, spearheaded the resistance to the Keystone Pipeline, and launched the fast-growing fossil fuel divestment movement.

The Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was the 2013 winner of the Gandhi Prize and the Thomas Merton Prize, and holds honorary degrees from 18 colleges and universities. Foreign Policy named him to their inaugural list of the world’s 100 most important global thinkers, and the Boston Globe said he was “probably America’s most important environmentalist.”

A former staff writer for the New Yorker, he writes frequently for a wide variety of publications around the world, including the New York Review of BooksNational Geographic, and Rolling Stone. He lives in the mountains above Lake Champlain with his wife, the writer Sue Halpern, where he spends as much time as possible outdoors . In 2014, biologists honored him by naming a new species of woodland gnat— Megophthalmidia mckibbeni–in his honor.

Featured artists:

Rena Detrixhe, this year’s featured visual artist and a member of the first group of TLI research residents, creates contemplative work combining repetitive process and collected or scavenged materials to produce meticulous, large-scale objects and installations. Drawn to materials which possess an inherent story or familiar source and often utilizing natural elements, a continuing objective in her practice is to investigate the relationship between humans and the more-than-human world. Recent work explores systems of value in relation to land and water and slowness as a means of cultivating empathy and understanding.



Eliza Gilkyson, twice Grammy-nominated (2006/2015) folk singer/songwriter and activist, is one of the most respected musicians in Folk, Roots and Americana circles. Her songs have been covered by Joan Baez, Bob Geldof, Tom Rush and Rosanne Cash and have appeared in films, PBS specials and on
prime-time TV. A member of the Austin Music Hall of Fame, and a recent inductee into the Austin Songwriter Hall of Fame, she has won countless Folk Alliance and Austin Music awards, including 2014’s Songwriter of the Year. Eliza’s music offers a vivid reflection of the times we live in, full of joys and sorrows, each song a window into a life of struggle and triumph in a culture she feels is “caught between collapse and reinvention”. On stage, Eliza presents a vibrant spontaneous mix of storytelling with self-effacing humor and tenderness, within a wide-ranging spectrum of human experience, from intimate love songs to political diatribe, accompanied by brilliant support players. Eliza’s latest album, “SECULARIA” (2018), is a collection of spiritually charged songs that do not fit within the parameters of traditional patriarchal religious beliefs but challenge us to respect all life and be accountable for our actions in such divisive times.


Once a year, the Land Band musicians make a place in their complex lives to lead the Prairie Festival barn dance. Keyboardist Ann Zimmerman, Salina, known for her Sunday Prairie Festival performances, sings year-round and mediates legal disputes. Guitarist and teacher-rancher-songwriter Annie Wilson was named “Flint Hills Balladeer” by Kansas for Flint Hills-themed songs she performs with her band, Tallgrass Express. Lisa Grossman, acoustic bassist from Lawrence, is better known for her landscape painting but loves playing for dances. Fiddler Alice Boyle joins us this year from Manhattan, where she teaches biology at K-State and performs with her band, Dire Ducks. Baldwin artist Matt Kirby also plays in the Alferd Packer Memorial String Band on a hammered dulcimer he built. Lisa Harris, our caller from Lawrence, loves to help people have fun through community dance and directs continuing education programs in transportation at the University of Kansas. Lenexans Frank and Christine Martin play in contra dance band, Calliope, which, like the Land Band, has been around for over 30 years; Frank practices law, assisted by Chris in their home office. All Land Band members are committed to The Land Institute and its mission.


Ann Zimmerman sings her native prairie into universal language and works magic from songs of life on the windy plains.  Her confident Kansas style and magnetic stage presence have taken her across the continent singing a hundred gigs a year. Her songs – winners of the Wildflower! Festival, Great American Song, and the Just Plain Folks national song contests – tell stories and paint portraits, leaving audiences laughing, thinking, singing.


About Prairie Festival

The first Prairie Festival took place in 1979 on Sam and Terry Evans’ farm near Salina, Kansas, with David Brower as the featured speaker. Since then, our signature annual public event has drawn thousands of attendees from around the world.

The Prairie Festival offers a unique opportunity to interact with some of the world’s most compelling authors, thinkers, artists, and advocates focused on agriculture, food, the environment, science, sustainability, and social and environmental justice.

Held over the last full weekend of September along the banks of the Smoky Hill River on The Land Institute’s home campus outside Salina, Kansas, the festival revolves around “low tech” presentations by notable guests in The Land Institute’s Big Barn.

Our science staff provides tours and an in-depth update on our plant breeding and ecology work and partnerships. There’s food and music, the Hedge Fire Circle, and always a few surprises. Join us for what The New York Times called an “intellectual hootenanny” and what has become a remarkable can’t-miss event on the prairie.

Videos of talks and presentations from previous Prairie Festivals can be viewed in our Video & Audio Library.

For information on visiting The Land Institute, including driving directions, local accommodations, and more, or if you can’t make it to the Prairie Festival but would like to visit The Land Institute, we can arrange for a tour at other times of the year, check out the Visit Us page of our website.

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