In April 2014, luminaries of the food movement — who also happen to be longtime friends — took the stage at Cooper Union’s historic Great Hall. Attendees flocked from across the nation to watch farmer-poet Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson, president of The Land Institute, join New York Times columnist Mark Bittman for a friendly conversation about the current state of food and farming, how we got here and what lies before us.
An environmental scientist with a PhD in genetics, Wes Jackson is founder of the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. The institute’s holy grail is to develop perennial grains, or ones with roots that would grow deep into the earth year-round to help hold the soil and prevent runoff. They also aim to develop systems to plant in combination to maintain soil health and prevent or diminish the need for chemical inputs like herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. These “perennial polycultures” take nature as their role model, creating a sustainable agriculture that’s quite contrary to industrial farming’s dominant practices.
Both friends have written extensively on culture and the environment, with Wendell Berry being the more literary one, whose insightful poems, stories and essays have reaped him huge followings and an abundance of arts and science awards.
As Bittman introduced them, “Either could be resting on his wondrous accomplishments over lifetimes of varied work — a fraction of which would be enough to satisfy most of us that we’d spent our time on earth wisely. Instead, they’re still crusading and wonderfully.”
Source: Heritage Radio Network, 17 April 2014