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Ann Zimmerman

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We go to the Prairie Festival
at The Land Institute
the end of September every year
to dance a little to barn dance music,
hear other great homemade music,
enjoy art,
eat some food made with perennial grain,
visit with people deeply committed
to a healthy planet for all,
learn more about the prairie’s natural systems,
and the progress of creating perennial polycultures
on the prairie
and to listen to some of the most intelligent and wise
people on the planet.

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Wes Jackson

This year, we once again experienced all this,
plus a beautiful bonfire under the stars
and the morning sky on Sunday—
a prayer in itself—
fittingly,
as this year’s theme was about spirituality’s role
in environmental care/the land ethic.
The thing that was different this year
is that we came away
differently.
We always come away inspired,
affirmed
and energized for our work.
This year, we trust that will still happen,
but first
we have to process a little more,
take some time to sit with,
let sink in—
and grieve—
the state of life on the planet.
This year,
instead of just hearing the devastating news
of species extinction and other impacts
of global warming and climate change,
we were invited to take it into our hearts
before deciding,
again,
what is our role in change-making.
Ah…the work of spirituality. No wonder
people avoid it.
And so we did,
are still. It’s critical work:
if we don’t face the problems,
grieve the problems,
we won’t have the courage, commitment
and endurance
to do the work required of us;
we won’t choose
what our particular role is
in helping life, all life, along.
And help we must,
one speaker said,
or we damage our souls.

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We will surely
be inspired,
energized
soon.
Returning home to the prairie
gives us wide space for grieving the state of the planet,
and every reason to do so….
a Monarch (they are diminishing) floating by,
“extreme” drought,
three Blue Jays in the birdbath the second it is filled…
the gorgeous sky,
an old Hackberry,
tall prairie grass, waving its autumn colors…

There is no way to even begin to share
the high points of the speakers’ comments.
Eventually, recordings of their talks
will be available on The Land Institute website.
And many have written articles and books.
I recommend reading:
Robert Jensen
Bill Vitek
Ellen Davis
Ted Burk
The Land Institute founder and President
Wes Jackson

And remember we’re here
at Turtle Rock Farm
to support, encourage,
sit with,
walk with on the prairie.
Our next Active Hope retreat
is scheduled for October 18.

With friends last year at The Land Institute’s Prairie Festival

Critical,
in learning to live sustainably,
is being around
and hearing those
who inspire.
Every year,
the last week of September
is our time of renewal.
We always go to the Prairie Festival
at the Land Institute
outside of Salina, Ks.
Along with hundreds of others
who care deeply
and work sacrificially
to learn nature’s processes
and how humanity can live
in an integrated,
sustainable way,
we listen to amazing scientists,
philosophers, writers, artists, farmers
as they share their learnings.
This year,
presenters include:
Brian Donahue, Brandeis University, author of “The Great Meadow: Farmers and the Land in Colonial Concord”
Richard Heinberg, Post Carbon Institute, author of “The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality”
Naomi Klein, author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”
David R. Montgomery, University of Washington and author of “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations”
As always, the final presentation (following the two days of presentations and contra dancing, art show, concert by our favorite Ann Zimmerman and local foods, including a desert made with Kanza flour, resulting from The Land Institute’s continuing work at developing perennial grains and seeds) is made by The Land’s founder, Wes Jackson, who always inspires our work for another year, at least.

There is a difference this year.
Ann will be attending the Prairie Festival,
as usual.
But I, Pat, will forgo this profound experience
(Ann will bring home stories, notes and recordings)
to attend another inspiring event
with another amazing gathering of people
who care about the planet
and a panel of inspiring and extremely knowledgeable presenters.
This conference is closer to home,
at Oklahoma City University—
Caring for our HOME:
Educating Moral Leaders for Ecological Sustainability.
Presenters include:
Mary Elizabeth Moore, dean of the Boston University School of Religion, and author of several books, including Ministering with the Earth
David W. Orr, Oberlin College Professor of Environmental Studies, and author of many books, including Ecological Literacy and Earth in Mind and Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse
Larry Ward, an ordained Christian minister and teacher of Engaged Buddhism. He is director of the Lotus Institute and adjunct faculty at Claremont Graduate University
Daniel Wallach, Executive Director and Founder, Greensburg GreenTown and Catherine Hart, Program Director, Greensburg GreenTown. They will speak about the rebuilding and greening of Greensburg, KS., following its devastation by a tornado.
I am very much looking forward
to this conference
and am glad to get to present
the work of Turtle Rock Farm
as one of the case studies
on how to educate the community
about sustainability.

We always eagerly anticipate
the last week of September.
And this year,
we’re doubly excited
to gather with caring, committed people,
to learn,
to be inspired
to keep up the good work
of living sustainably
within the great web of life.

To register for The Land Institute’s Prairie Festival,
click here.
To register for OCU’s conference,
Caring for Our Home:
Educating Moral Leaders for Ecological Sustainability,
click here.

 

 

Every year
upon returning from The Land Institute‘s
annual Prairie Festival
just outside Salina, Kansas,
I am re-energized
to do the great work
of learning to live as part of
an ecosystem.
This year
I needed the input of the speakers
at the prairie festival
more than ever before.
It’s always been inspiring to hear
the geniuses who are improving
the way we live as part of this ecosystem -
always Wes Jackson,
under whose leadership The Land Institute
is doing the profoundly significant work of
developing perennial grains in polycultures.
I’ve needed the inspiration more this year than ever
because the news about the impacts of Earth’s heating
has been hard to face.
Speakers at prairie festival
always give facts as they see them,
albeit with much good humor
and often with some underlying spiritual sense.
This year wouldn’t be any different.
The facts are grim.
Wes Jackson said it at the end of his talk,
“I think we’re in for bad times.
I’m not an optimist,
but I’m hopeful.”
And so it was the job of all speakers
to state the facts of the ecosystem’s need,
especially in the areas they each work,
and find the hope
in how we can respond.
I implore everyone to read about the work of
Josh Farley, professor and fellow
for the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics
at the University of Vermont;
Scott Russell Sanders,
Pulitzer-prize nominated author
whose latest book A Conservationist Manifesto
speaks to a vision of a cultural shift of consumption to caretaking;
Sandra Steingraber,
ecologist, author
and expert on environmental links to cancer and human health;
Kent Whealy,
co-founder and leader of the Seed Savers Exchange;
Wes Jackson
and Wendell Berry.
Here is the venerable Mr. Berry
on reasons for hope:

We can learn where we are.
We can look around us and see.
We have lost much,
and much remains.
We’re not helpless.
We have the ability to understand land health.
We can restore native perennials.

We can see what we need to do and do it.
Conservation is going on.
We can use land skillfully, frugally
and with affection.

We could benefit from leadership
and educational institutions
but we are learning from active groups,
from the bottom up.
Because of these efforts,
some things are changing
and they can continue to change.

We can have actual conversation,
discussion.
We should state the specifics of what we know
and admit what we don’t know.

We are working
at living a healthy vision
and aren’t doing it perfectly;
but we can achieve
a unity
of vision and work.

I came away from prairie festival
grateful once again
for great minds
and caring hearts
of the likes of Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson.
And I came away
able
to face the grim facts
and re-energized
to move forward
on a path
of hope
that we can
stand together
and care
for this beautiful,
beautiful
planet
and help it live.

The work that is done at The Land Institute
near Salina, Kansas,
is extraordinary.
With the prairie as his teacher,
founder Wes Jackson
is not only teaching the rest of us
how to live sustainably on Earth
but developing new agricultural systems.
For one thing,
he’s developing
perennial
edible
grasses.

Wes Jackson

Every September
The Land Institute
hosts a prairie festival
with outstanding lectures
by the country’s best scholars and practitioners.
This year,
to celebrate its 35th year,
Jackson has invited his old friend
Wendell Berry
to keynote the weekend.

Go.

Land Institute - 350The extensive root systems of perennial grasses spell out
the particles per million of carbon that Earth can sustain.
On the Big Barn at The Land Institute’s annual Prairie Festival
in Salina, Kansas, last weekend. We are already at 390. See 350.org.

These are some of the things we heard at The Land Institute‘s Prairie Festival last weekend:

George Woodwell, senior scientist, Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth, MA., calls the situation we have created on Earth, “climatic disruption” because it’s “far more than warming.” “The living systems of the Earth – the seas, forests, terrestrials; they run the world…We think the biological world is open to easy compromise. It’s not any more open to easy compromise than the law of gravity is open to easy compromise.” The metaphor he uses is the “Haitian abyss,” describing situations in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the situation in Haiti. At this point, neither can simply pull themselves up by their bootstraps and solve their own problems.

It takes a new view of the world to envision a world that will work, he says. We are adding 5 billion tons of carbon to the planet each year above what the sea and plants can absorb. “We can’t just tinker with the old world. We have to have a new world” or we will enter the “Haitian abyss – when we can’t get ourselves out of the situation we’re in.” “We have to move away from fossil fuel. It’s done. We have to decide what else to do. We have to preserve the integrity of the Earth.”

John Todd, ecological designer, founder of Ocean Arks, Intl., and Todd Ecological, Inc.; winner of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge for his entry “Design for a Carbon Neutral World: The Challenge of Appalachia,” in which he envisions and works toward healing and recovery of horrific mountain removal. In our efforts to solve the ecological problems we have created, he says, we can “learn the language of nature. The prairie knows something I need to know: nature’s operating instructions. I need to learn what it knows that I can apply to my life. It is a lifetime learning.” As one example in his work, Todd tells the stories of using nature’s operating instructions to clean water from toxic waste.

Wes Jackson, founder of The Land Institute, tells the compelling story of the collapse of the industrial mind and compels us to face and deal with the ecological problems we have created by learning and respecting dynamic ecological systems to “increase our resilience thinking while we still have a little slack.” “Enhance your ability to absorb disturbance.” And he asks: “Do we have the ability to practice restraint?”

It was a deeply meaningful symposium.
Here are people who are giving us the worst possible news.
And showing us ways to create a new world.
It is hopeful, in a we-HAVE-to-get-down-to-business way.
Suddenly,
all the little things we do
seem inadequate.
We must do all that -
and more,
not only individually,
but corporately,
as a species,
changing our ways radically,
living within the natural systems
of which we are not independent,
but of which we are a part.
It is inspiring and deeply helpful
to meet people who can and are leading the way.
Now,
can we listen
and take their lead?



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If you want to be inspired and encouraged about saving the planet, head to The Land Institute‘s Prairie Festival near Salina, KS., Sept. 25-27. It’s one of the highlights of the year… gathering into the big red barn with hundreds of other people, including students, who are trying to do what they can to sustain life on Earth, listening to great speakers who do good things.

Just hearing Land Institute founder Wes Jackson’s talk on Sunday morning is worth the trip. Too, this year, speakers include Richard Harris, NPR science writer; Verlyn Klinkenborg, New York Times editorial board; Mike Phillips, Yellowstone’s first wolf restoration project director; Dr. John Todd, pioneer in the field of ecological design and engineering; George Woodwell, Director Emeritus, Senior Scientist for Woods Hole Research Center.

The Land Institute was founded by Jackson some 30 years ago to tackle the problems of agriculture. Here’s the mission statement:

When people, land, and community are as one,
all three members prosper;
when they relate not as members
but as competing interests,
all three are exploited.
By consulting Nature as the source
and measure of that membership,
The Land Institute seeks to develop an agriculture
that will save soil from being lost or poisoned
while promoting a community life at once
prosperous and enduring.

Besides the inspiring words at the Prairie Festival, there’s a barn dance, dinner, concert (by our favorite prairie songwriter and singer Ann Zimmerman,) bookstore, prairie walk, camping. Click here for more information and a registration form.



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Hollyhocks in the morning

A completely still morning.
Cool.
Fog.
“Bob White,” the male quail sings.
Lots of birdsong,
near and far -
cooing
singing
chirping,
chattering.
A hummingbird gathers nectar
from the Hollyhocks outside the bedroom window.
Two rabbits sit in the wet grass.
It’s a beautiful morning.

This weather is not normal for this time of year.
“Normally,” the hot winds finish drying the wheat grains.
But this year,
the weather has been cool.
We had a very late
very hard
freeze in April,
then days of slow rain.
Some wheat was ruined in the freeze,
some in the standing-water days.
Some wheat was ready to cut a week ago,
some,
in the same patch,
is still green.
And the plants in the field that aren’t wheat (weeds)
are growing,
which will increase the moisture content of the harvest.
It’s “normal”
to get rain,
as we did yesterday afternoon,
during wheat harvest.
But we haven’t started harvesting wheat yet
and there isn’t going to be much to harvest.
It will be crop insurance
and a higher-than-normal price for wheat
that help farmers this year.

This is the third year in a row that there has been
crop failure.
Two years ago,
no one cut any wheat at all,
due to rain.
Last year, everyone cut poor wheat,
but with the price at an historical high,
the financial loss was redeemed.

It’s discouraging not to be able to grow
a successful wheat crop.
Most farmers around here
are also ranchers:
they raise cattle.
More and more farmers
are becoming full-time ranchers,
not growing any wheat at all.
This rainy weather,
the cool weather
is good for the prairie grass.

At a time when we are learning
that eating as much meat as we do,
both in the U.S. and, increasingly, globally,
that is raised the way we raise it
contributes to global warming;
at a time when we are learning
that we need to be eating more whole grains
and are having trouble raising them;
at a time when we are having to face the fact
that modern agricultural practices
have depleted the soil,
it would seem that the writing is on the wall:
we need to learn new ways
to grow our food.

And so,
I see hope
in this beautiful morning.
Can’t really complain about nature,
the weather.
This beautiful morning could not be healthier
for plants or animals.
Maybe it’s time we learn more from nature,
from what has worked in the past,
from the native peoples;
maybe it’s time we learn from the latest green revolution,
the one that seeks to use practices
that don’t deplete or poison natural resources;
maybe it’s time for supporting creative possibilities,
like The Land Institute‘s edible grass project
or learning from Cuba’s agricultural disaster
out of which a whole nation of people grow their own vegetables.

It’s hard for farmers here.
It’s also hard for the land here.
It’s time we face the facts,
find courage amidst our fear
and dedicate ourselves to finding ways to work together
in sustainable ways.

 

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