Transforming Agriculture, Perennially

Prairie Festival

See you at next year’s Prairie Festival to be held Sept. 25-27, 2020!

2020 Event Details

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.

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.

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.

Our science staff provides tours and an in-depth update on our plant breeding and ecology work and partnerships. There’s great 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.

View Previous Prairie Festival Presentations

Videos of talks and presentations from previous Prairie Festivals can be viewed in our Video & Audio Library. To see last years presentations, visit  2019 speaker presentations on our YouTube channel.

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.

Featured 2019 Presenters: “Carbon, Culture, and Change: From the Ground Up”

Photo by Nancie Battaglia

Bill McKibben, author and environmentalist, was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize 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 is co-founder of, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change 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.”


M. Francesca Cotrufo, PhD, is Professor and Associate Head in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, and Senior Scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Lab, at Colorado State University. Cotrufo is a soil ecologist and biogeochemist, internationally recognized as an authority in the field of litter decomposition and soil organic matter dynamics, and in the use of isotopic methodologies in these studies. Her main research interest is in understanding the mechanisms and drivers of formation and persistence of soil organic matter, and its response to global environmental changes and disturbances. She also pursues applied research to propose soil management practices that increase soil health and mitigate climate change.  She is editor of the journal Global Change Biology. To date she published over 100 peer reviewed articles and several book chapters. In 2018, she was recognized for exceptional research performance demonstrated by production of multiple highly cited papers that rank in the top 1% by citations for her field in Web of Science.


Amory Lovins, ©Judy HillPhysicist Amory Lovins, is Co-founder, Chief Scientist, and Chairman Emeritus of Rocky Mountain Institute, author of 31 books and over 630 papers, advisor to major firms and governments worldwide for 45 years on advanced energy efficiency, and a designer of super­efficient buildings, vehicles, and industrial plants. He received the Blue Planet, Volvo, Zayed, Onassis, Nissan, Shingo, and Mitchell Prizes, MacArthur and Ashoka Fellowships, 12 honorary doctorates, the Heinz, Lindbergh, Right Livelihood, National Design, and World Technology Awards, and Germany’s Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit. A Harvard and Oxford dropout, former Oxford don, honorary U.S. architect, Swedish engineering academician, and 2011–18 member of the National Petroleum Council, he has taught at ten universities (most recently Stanford’s School of Engineering and the Naval Postgraduate School)—but only subjects he’s never formally studied, so as to retain beginner’s mind. In 2009, Time named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people, and Foreign Policy, one of the 100 top global thinkers.


Ana Luz Porzecanski, PhD, Director, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History, is a conservation and evolutionary biologist. She has devoted her career to understanding biodiversity and sustaining it for the future. She obtained her undergraduate degree in biological sciences from the Universidad de la República (Uruguay), and her Ph.D. degree from Columbia University, where she carried out research on the evolution of South American aridland birds and on international environmental policy issues. She has 15 years of experience coordinating and leading conservation capacity development projects, designing teaching materials for university professors and conservation professionals, and leading professional development for diverse educator audiences in Latin America, Africa and the United States. Porzecanski now leads a team of researchers generating sound evidence for management and policy, and strengthening strengthening capacity for conservation across geographies and scales.

Featured 2019 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 Lauralyn Bodle rejoins us this year. 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.



Featured 2019 Activity Leaders


Fran Stallings, PhD, Storyteller and chair of National Storytelling Network’s Environmental Storytelling Group is an internationally known storyteller, author, and recording artist. Retired from teaching university biology, she uses the traditional art of storytelling to impart modern science concepts while engendering respect for our planet’s living things. Her stories for all ages include music, songs, and audience participation. Her work has earned her the title “EarthTeller.” She performs and trains educators, zoo docents, and park rangers nationwide and overseas.

“Stories and Songs for a Green Earth”: 10:30 am-noon Saturday There will be 40 min for the younger kids, then 50 min for the older kids. Parents and unaccompanied adults are welcome!


David Olson, yoga instructor, is also an artist who uses yoga as a means to work with mind, in order to assist his body to facilitate a contemplative moments that he uses when he creates his sculpture. He says, “The practice of yoga began two decades ago when I became aware of the movements relating to my sculpture. I started to include introductory yoga sessions in the studio art classes that I was teaching at university, using the practice as one of the methods to develop mindfulness. Since that time, I have continued to practice Hatha Yoga, as it assists me in my art making, along with providing community opportunities to practice yoga.”
Yoga: 7:30 am, Sunday


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