Last week-end I drove the long drive up I 35 to sweet Salina, Kansas, home of The Land Institute. The Land Institute is a research center working on the development of perennial grains such as wheat, rice and sorghum, to be grown on small, polyculture farms as sustainable alternatives to large monoculture, highly chemically dependent crops that are grown today. The scientists at TLI are tremendously concerned with maintaining the fertility of the earth's soils and helping stem the loss of massive quantities of topsoil through erosion due to the breakdown of organic matter in the soil as a result of over disturbance and use of chemical additives and herbicides.
You can see one of the important advantages to growing perennial grains in the picture. Look to the right of the door opening (our right). See that lighter strip going down almost to the ground. That is a picture of perennial grain and it's roots. The horizontal line above the door is where ground level would be, with the stems and grain above. All the rest is root mass. That is one plant. Imagine the richness and holding power of a field of perennial grains and grasses. On those roots are millions of tiny ecosystems, gathering nutrients, some of them fixing nitrogen, interacting with nutrients and bacteria galore. All of them working together in the majestic whole which is rich, renewing, life giving soil.
Every September the Land Institute holds their Prairie Festival. Speakers at the festival are leaders in their fields science, economics, ecospirituality and more, and bring to the attendees the latest information concerning where we are in the great work of sustaining and protecting our unique biosphere. When I am able to attend, I am always uplifted and encouraged by hearing what is happening on the cutting edge of their research. There is a lot of news, positive and negative, concerning the biosphere that never makes it into the evening news cycle.
We gather in this grand old wooden barn and listen to the speakers. We sit on folding chairs on the dirt floor , where we will have danced together the night before. There is no powerpoint, no suits and ties, no distance between them and us. No one is putting on a show; the flies and honey bees land on all of us. This is an authentic place. The scientists and professors, economists, speakers, researchers do their work all year and we do ours and for two days at the end of September we come together to recharge, reconnect and be reminded of the fact that there are many of us in this particular boat. Sometimes we each feel that we alone are paddling.
You might expect to see many participants from the Boomer generation at something of this type, and you would be correct in that assumption. But the thing that always thrills my soul is the number of bright, passionate young men and women who come every year. They listen intently and are eager to discuss the issues with the scientists, each other and those of us who have been involved in this effort for many, many years. I am excited to see the torch being passed along to these energetic, well educated young people who care deeply for the Earth and our place in the mix.
One thing I greatly respect about the people in my children's generation is this: they think, they plan and then they act. There is no sitting around saying something should be done. They do something. Bravo!
"Train up a child in the way that he should go; and when he is old [grown] he will not depart from it." Prov. 22:6 Maybe all that work we did on taking care of the earth, the biosphere, back in the 70s, 80s and 90s is bearing good fruit now, with them. It is their turn and they are more than ready to take the lead in this. I am so proud of them.