Transforming Agriculture, Perennially

Prairie Festival 2018: "Economic Transformations for an Ecological Civilization"

Thank you for joining us at Prairie Festival 2018!

Check out the videos of our 2018 presenters here.

Recommended reading list of research publications and other writings — learn what our researchers are working on.


Featured presenters:

Loka Ashwood, assistant professor at Auburn University in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, grew up on a cattle, grain, and hog farm in Illinois. She is a former award winning journalist who now as an academic works with communities to enact proactive change through research. Her scholarship has won awards from the European Society for Rural Sociology, Rural Sociological Society, the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values society, and the International Association for Society and Natural Resources. She is the author of For-Profit Democracy: Why the Government is Losing the Trust of Rural America (Yale University Press, 2018) and second author of An Invitation to Environmental Sociology. 5th Edition (Pine Forge Press 2016).

Mary Berry and Matthew Derr panel discussion

Mary Berry, The Berry Center Executive Director and her brother, Den Berry, were raised by their parents, Wendell and Tanya Berry, at Lanes Landing Farm in Henry County, Kentucky from the time she was six years old. She attended Henry County public schools and graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1981. She farmed for a living in Henry County starting out in dairy farming, growing Burley tobacco, and later diversifying to organic vegetables, pastured poultry and grass-fed beef. Mary is married to Trimble County, Kentucky farmer, Steve Smith, who started the first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farming endeavor in the state of Kentucky.

The Berry Center was started in 2011 to continue the agricultural work of John Berry, Sr. and his sons Wendell Berry and John Berry, Jr. John Berry, Sr. was a staunch advocate for small farmers and land conserving economies. His sons took up his work and have continued it. The Berry Center has now taken it up, and is focused on issues confronting small farming families in Kentucky and around the country.  Our focus may shift because of need, but it will not move from what we believe to be the central issue of our time: the need for a healthy and sustainable agriculture in this country.


Matthew Derr, president of Sterling College, is nationally recognized in higher education for his expertise in leading institutional change and for strengthening mission-based focus. In 2011, He was awarded a Council for Advancement and Support of Education Chief Executive of the Year Award. Derr led the effort to divest the Sterling endowment from fossil fuels, founded the Fried Center for Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems, and recently launched an effort with The Berry Center to expand the reach of farmer education. Prior to Sterling, President Derr served as Interim President of Antioch College, where, he developed a concept for a new curriculum focused on issues related to environmental stewardship, inspired by Sterling. Unusually for a college president, Derr also fulfills a role as a faculty member and teaches community organizing.


David Bollier, activist, scholar, and blogger who is focused on the commons as a new paradigm for re-imagining economics, politics, and culture. He pursues this work as Director of the Reinventing the Commons Program at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics and as co-founder of the Commons Strategies Group, an international advocacy project.

Bollier has co-organized pioneering international conferences and strategy workshops on the commons, and consults regularly with diverse activists and policy experts in the US and Europe. His blog,, is a widely read source of news about the commons, and his book Think Like a Commoner: A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons  (2014), has been translated into six languages. He and coauthor Silke Helfrich will publish Free, Fair and Alive: The Insurgent Power of the Commons in spring 2019. Bollier’s other books include Patterns of Commoning (2015) and The Wealth of the Commons (2012), both with co-editor Silke Helfrich; Green Governance (2013), co-authored with the late Professor Burns Weston; and Viral Spiral (2009), Brand-Name Bullies (2005), and Silent Theft (2002). In 2012, Bollier received the Bosch Berlin Prize in Public Policy from the American Academy in Berlin for his work on the commons.


Liz Carlisle is a lecturer in the School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University, where she teaches courses on food and agriculture, sustainability transition, and environmental communication. She holds a Ph.D. in Geography from UC Berkeley and a B.A. in Folklore and Mythology from Harvard University, and she formerly served as Legislative Correspondent for Agriculture and Natural Resources in the Office of U.S. Senator Jon Tester. Recognized for her academic writing with the Elsevier Atlas Award, which honors research with social impact, Liz has also published numerous pieces for general audience readers, in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Business Insider, and Stanford Social Innovation Review. Recently, she is the author of the book Lentil Underground, which chronicles the sustainable agriculture movement in her home state of Montana.


Taylor Keen is a full-time instructor in the Heider College of Business Administration in Strategy and Entrepreneurship at Creighton University and also a faculty member of Creighton Native American Studies program. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College as well as a Master of Business Administration and Master of Public Administration from Harvard University, where he served as a Fellow in the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

Taylor is the author of the book-in-progress entitled “Rediscovering America: Sacred Geography, the Ancient Earthen Works and an Indigenous History of Turtle Island”. Known also by the name “Bison Mane” of the Earthen Bison Clan of the Omaha Tribe, he is a lifelong traditionalist.


Frog Pond Philosophy panel discussion

A panel discussion will explore the new book Frog Pond Philosophy by the late philosopher, ethicist, and Friend of the Land, Strachan Donnelley. Donnelly’s essays promote the idea that humans have a moral and civic responsibility to natural ecosystems and raise questions like, what if “nature alive” were taken as our “bottom line”? Participants include Donnelley’s daughter, Ceara Donnelley, co-editor of the book, and Brooke Hecht, his mentee and the president of the Center for Humans and Nature. TLI’s Director of Ecosphere Studies, Aubrey Streit Krug, will serve as moderator.

 Seeking the space to explore life’s big questions, Brooke Hecht has been the President of the Center for Humans and Nature since 2008. Whether through the Center’s Questions for a Resilient Future program or other Center initiatives, her work explores what it means to be human and what our responsibilities are to each other and the whole community of life.

Brooke earned her BA in biology from Dartmouth College and a Master of Science degree from the University of Melbourne. Her work in Australia was the starting point for her interest in ecological edges and what these threshold zones can tell us about ecosystem health, our own well-being, and our relationships with the land. Brooke received her PhD in ecosystem ecology from Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. At Yale, Brooke continued her research on ecological edges. Her field work took her to Iceland, where she was also a Fulbright Fellow.

 Since her father Strachan Donnelley’s death in 2008, Ceara Donnelley has been committed to carrying forward his work and legacy. She has done so as Vice Chair and Strategic Counsel of the Center for Humans and Nature, the non-profit Strachan founded to explore and promote human responsibilities to nature, and as co-editor of Frog Pond Philosophy, a compendium of Strachan’s best writing and thinking that was published in 2018 by the University Press of Kentucky.

When not engaged in the philosophic and strategic work of helping to realize her father’s vision, Ceara is creating her own as founder of Ceara Donnelley Ltd. Co., an interior design studio based in Charleston, South Carolina. Her design work focuses on creating homes full of beauty and comfort that become the backdrop for the unfolding of rich and full lives. She complements this attention to the inner sanctum with service to the greater Charleston environment, both human and natural. She is the Vice Chair of the board of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and is also on the board of the Charleston Library Society.

Ceara graduated from Yale summa cum laude with a BA in History, and later received her JD from Yale Law School. She lives in Charleston with her husband, two children, two dogs, and two cats.


Featured artists:

 Claire Pentecost, this year’s featured visual artist, is an artist and writer whose poetic and inductive drawings, sculpture and installations test and celebrate the conditions that bound and define life itself. Her projects often address the contested line between the natural and the artificial, focusing for many years on food, agriculture, bio-engineering, and anthropogenic changes in the indivisible living entity that animates our planet. Since 2006, she has worked with Brian Holmes, 16Beaver and many others organizing Continental Drift, a series of seminars to articulate the interlocking scales of our existence in the logic of globalization. She is also a founding member of Deeptime Chicago, dedicated to cultural change in the Anthropocene.

A sample of Pentecost’s exhibition venues include: dOCUMENTA(13), Whitechapel Gallery, the 13th Istanbul Biennial, Nottingham Contemporary, the DePaul Art Museum, and the Third Mongolian Land Art Biennial. Institutions inviting her to lecture include: MIT, CalArts, RISD, Northwestern University, Rice University, The University of Virginia, Creative Time Summit and many others. She is represented by Higher Pictures, New York, and is professor and chair of the Department of Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


Jean Gumpper creates nature inspired prints through the reduction woodcut process and pochoir, a process where gouache paint is applied through a stencil. She is Artist in Residence and Lecturer in the art department at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Jean’s prints are in collections of The Art Bank at Department of State, Washington D.C; in museums, universities and art centers as well as in art collections across the globe.



Everyday Lights is a group of Salina-based musicians with a love for folk and jazz rhythms. Their unique instrumentation and improvised harmony gives them a fresh, creative sound that is best realized in their original music. Their ability to combine a variety of musical styles including folk, country, rock and bluegrass always keeps the audience guessing and looking forward to the next song.



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.


Prairie Festival T-Shirt Design Competition

Congratulations to Frank Ozmun who created the winning design for this year’s Prairie Festival! Thank you to all the artists who submitted designs, it was difficult to choose a winner!  The shirt will be on sale at this year’s festival.


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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