‘You're driving through Kansas. What do you want to see?’ muses Mercedes Michalowski, manager of the Oz Museum in Wamego. ‘It should be something to do with Oz.’ – from “Off to See the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas,” by Jay Jones, Los Angeles Times
"’One of the things I wanted to do in Bleeding Kansas,’ she explains, ‘was to try to explore what drives the religious Right. I grew up in Kansas and I never imagined wanting to set a book there. I sometimes think that going back to the land of your childhood is... well, Thomas Wolfe said it: you can't go home again.’ So is the new book, set in the state where she ‘became the person she is’ after an unhappy childhood with warring parents, a way of exorcising personal demons? ‘Well, it may have started that way. But if there were people you couldn't stand up to when they were alive, flogging their ghosts doesn't help you. On a purely physical level, however, I went way out of my way to burn down my childhood home.’” – from “Sara Paretsky: Heartache in the Heartland, by Barry Forshaw, The Independent
"But what if the universities were to ask seriously what it would mean to have as our national goal becoming native in this place, this continent?" -- from Becoming Native to This Place, by Wes Jackson
Wes Jackson "resigned a professorship with tenure to found The Land Institute in 1976." The Land Institute's Mission Statement reflects its philosophy: "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." The work at The Land Institute consistently proves the viability of this statement.
The Land Institute sits on 580 acres of gently rolling land along the Smoky Hill River near Salina, Kansas. It is a pleasure to visit both the farmland and restored prairie. You can also begin an acquaintance with The Land Institute by visiting their website. On the site, you can read about their history and "Natural Systems Agriculture", "meet" the staff, and peruse their newsletter. You will see that writing plays an important role in their work. The Land Institute, under Jackson's leadership, publishes books and articles in scientific journals such as Nature and Science. It is also the home of the Prairie Writers Circle. "Initiated in 2001, the Prairie Writers Circle brings together writers in Kansas and nationally who produce op-ed commentary for newspapers large and small to encourage wider public awareness of ecological and sustainability issues important to the Land Institute's mission." The Circle includes such familiar names as Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben, David Mas Masumoto, Michael Pollan, and others. Links are provided to many of the published articles. But, it is, perhaps, the books by Wes Jackson that best share the philosophy and work of The Land Institute. His writing encourages "consulting Nature" as the best way to approach agriculture and the best way to live on our tiny planet.
As we move into four more years of the Bush Administration, we can turn to places like The Land Institute and voices like Wes Jackson's for inspiration and encouragement.
"Our nation has not yet even begun seriously building a science of agricultural sustainability with nature as the measure." -- from Becoming Native to This Place, by Wes Jackson