Transforming Agriculture, Perennially


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The Land Institute’s Prairie Festival Returns with Courageous Voices and New Roots


The event seeks to deepen a movement to regenerate people and the land in the face of a chaotic present and uncertain future.

SALINA, KANSAS, USA – September 8, 2022 – After a two-year pandemic hiatus, The Land Institute will host its 42ndperennial Prairie FestivalNew Roots: Growing a movement from the ground down, at its headquarters south of Salina, Kansas, during the last weekend of September 23-25, 2022. The event will feature new voices and perspectives, including Huascar Medina, Poet Laureate of Kansas; Dr. JohnElla Holmes of the Kansas Black Farmers Association; Linda Black Elk, Food Sovereignty Coordinator at United Tribes Technical College; Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation; an exhibition by land artist Erin Wiersma; and a concert by world-renowned musicians Paul Winter and Henrique Eisenmann. Along with great food, art, and music, highlights include the Friday night barn dance, Saturday morning Kernza® pancake breakfast, and Sunday sunrise walk through the ancient Wauhob Prairie. Prairie Festival registration is now open.

Prairie Festival returns in a time of tremendous social and ecological upheaval. The event offers guests a unique opportunity to find respite, reconnection, and inspiration. Situated in the rolling hills on the east bank of the Smoky Hill River, curious new visitors and long-time supporters alike can immerse themselves in nature, ideas, and culture on the prairie. Compelling thinkers, artists, scientists, and advocates focused on the problems of agriculture and social and climate justice will engage with festival-goers to help regenerate people and the land.

“This brilliant group of speakers brings many new and unique histories, stories, and experiences to the Prairie Festival stage,” says Rachel Stroer, President of The Land Institute. “We can grow a movement to face our rapidly changing future by harnessing our collective wisdom and differences.”

The anchor address of the festival, the Strachan and Vivian Donnelley Family Keynote, will feature the groundbreaking Poet Laureate of Kansas, Huascar Medina, with his presentation Un Mango Grows in Kansas. Historically, the tentpole address centered on conservation and restoration topics, with talks from the likes of Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben, Liz Carlisle, and environmental scientists. This year, the spot will feature a Latino poet laureate for the first time. It will explore Medina’s broader themes of what it means to put down roots in Kansas as a Latino, separation and inclusion, and writing poetry for ordinary people.

“How we spread change matters. If an idea is not rooted in emotion, it will not be nurtured. We must first establish the want to care,” says Poet Laureate Medina. “Poetry does this. It is emotion personified. An entry point to empathy. It can be felt before it is understood. It allows the heart to inform the mind.”

Unheard stories and new shared experiences are the cornerstones of this year’s program. The Kansas Black Farmers Association will hold a panel discussion entitled We Have Always Been at the Roots: The Black Farm Experience. Hosted by Dr. JohnElla Holmes with KBFA members Web Davis, Donna McClish, and Ryan Tenney, they will discuss the often-overlooked past and living history of black farming. Ethnobotanist and food sovereignty activist Linda Black Elk will speak on Radical Appreciation: Standing in Right Relationship with Prairie Ecosystems. Dr. Omar Tesdell of Birzeit University will present Remnant Agro-ecology: Notes from the Fertile Crescent, discussing efforts to document wild plants and their cultural significance in Palestine. Journalist, writer, and filmmaker Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and Command and Control, will present Back to the Land: How to Live in the World without Destroying It. Schlosser will also converse with The Land Institute co-founder and celebrated author Wes Jackson in a dialog entitled, The Old Future is Gone.

“It’s important that people know and appreciate that black farmers have been at the roots of agriculture since before the founding of this country,” says Dr. JohnElla Holmes, Executive Director and President of the Kansas Black Farmers Association. “We aim to build a tree of stories, from intergenerational century farms to urban cooperative farms caring for their communities to new farmers teaching the next generation of black agriculturalists. This tree will show that our roots in the past are deep, our trunk is tall, and we continue to spread our branches into the future.”

The Land Institute will also showcase its work to develop perennial grain agriculture with in-depth talks, field tours, and demonstrations. Updates on Progress Toward a Perennial Future by The Land Institute Chief Scientist, Dr. Tim Crews, and Dr. Aubrey Streit-Krug, Director of Ecosphere Studies, will discuss the latest science and programs. In addition, the team will hold tours of institute research fields and talk with people about work on perennial grain crops, cropping systems, pollinators, soil ecology, civic science, and building new perennial grain supply chains from field to fork.

A big draw at Prairie Festival is the chance to eat and drink foods made with perennial grains developed by The Land Institute. The Friday night Hedge Fire Circle welcome reception will feature drinks made with perennial grains. In addition, Lawrence Beer Company is donating a special batch of Kernza® beer called Perennial Pub Ale. On Saturday morning, the festival will host a breakfast with pancakes made from Kernza® perennial grain flour and sausage made with bison raised on the institute’s fields. Saturday afternoon, the Crop Stewardship program will sample Kernza bread from Artisan Naan Bakery and a perennial grain dish by award-winning cookbook author Beth Dooley. In addition, the Prairie Festival bookstore and concessions booth will have a variety of perennial grain foods and products for purchase, including those from innovative producers AJ Honey Farms, Perennial Pantry, and Sustain-a-Grain.

The Red Barn Gallery will mount the exhibition evolve | become: works on paper from the Konza Prairie by internationally acclaimed Kansas artist Erin Wiersma, this year’s Prairie Festival Featured Artist. Wiersma’s art focuses on the body’s capacity to absorb and respond to an environment, incorporating elements from the Konza Prairie Biological Station in Kansas’s Flint Hills and Tallgrass Prairie region. The gallery will also host a series of works entitled The Flattening Future: Beauty, Utility and Discomfort by The Land Institute co-founder Wes Jackson and local artist Priti Gulati Cox.

Music has played a pivotal role since the first Prairie Festival in 1979; this year is no exception. The Saturday evening performance, A Concert in Celebration of the Earth, will be a journey through award-winning artist Paul Winter’s world of “living music,” featuring his soprano sax, accompanied by dynamic Brazilian pianist Henrique Eisenmann. The Land Institute’s Wes Jackson will also narrate from his writings, along with the voices of Wolf, Whale, Wood Thrush, and other members of what Winter calls “the greater symphony of the Earth.” In addition, the Kansas-based Land Band will play the traditional Friday night Prairie Festival barn dance. The Land Band’s members include keyboardist Ann Zimmerman, guitarist Annie Wilson, bassist Lisa Grossman, fiddler Alice Boyle, hammered dulcimer player Matt Kirby, accordionist Christine Martin, flutist and banjo player Frank Martin, and contra dance caller Lisa Harris.

The festival welcomes all ages, in person or remotely. College students will receive reduced ticket prices, and admission is free for kids 18 years of age and under and those wishing to volunteer. A youth program will be available for kids 5-15 with signup at registration. An ADA-accessible viewing area will be open onsite. Additionally, the festival will host a live stream on YouTube for guests who cannot travel to experience it remotely. For more details and to register, visit the Prairie Festival information page on The Land Institute website.

The Land Institute co-leads the global movement for perennial, diverse, regenerative grain agriculture at a scale that matches the enormity of the intertwined climate, water, and food security crises. An independent 501c3 non-profit founded in 1976, the organization seeks to reconcile the human economy with nature’s economy, starting with food. Its transdisciplinary team of scientists, together with global partners, are developing new perennial grain crops, like Kernza, and diverse cropping systems that function within nature’s limits and researching the social transformation required for a just, perennial human future.

Tammy Kimbler
Director of Communications


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