Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The Land Institute is a nonprofit organization that was established in 1976 on 370 acres near Salina, Kansas. It operates four programs devoted to sustainable agriculture and human communities.

The research program in Natural Systems Agriculture (NSA) has been exploring a new agricultural model that mimics the native prairie ecosystem in order to develop a biodiverse, perennial grain agriculture that preserves soil, requires minimal or no fossil fuel inputs, yields adequately, and does not rely on harmful synthetic chemicals for fertility or pest management. A formal advisory board of sixty-four researchers in the fields of agronomy, ecology, and other sciences assists in setting the program's research agenda. NSA fellowships are offered to graduate students to foster relevant research done either at the fellow's home institution or at the Land Institute.

Since 1992 the Sunshine Farm Research Program has been investigating the possibilities of farming without fossil fuels, synthetic fertilizers, or pesticides by using renewable energy technologies and innovative management practices to raise crops and livestock typical of Great Plains agriculture. The goal of this ten-year project is to examine the energetics of food production and its ecological costs.

The Intern Program, begun in 1983, annually provides stipends for eight graduatelevel students who spend ten months as research assistants in NSA and the Sunshine Farm. The program focuses on the broader issues of sustainable society and agriculture as well.

The Rural Community Studies Program, situated in the small town of Matfield Green in the Kansas Flint Hills, has been examining community viability along ecological lines rather than conventional economic ones. The program aims to maximize possibilities for cultural innovation in rural agricultural communities. Recent efforts include a small conference center, an education program for teachers and school administrators, and research into "ecological community accounting" that will measure the flow of energy and materials into and out of the community.

Marty Bender The Land Institute

Jackson, Wes. Becoming Native to this Place. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1994.

Soule, Judith D., and Jon K. Piper. Farming in Nature's Image. Washington DC: Island Press, 1992.

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