A lesson from a soft drink cup


“Wes Jackson is fond of saying that if your life’s work can be accomplished in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough. And no one is thinking bigger about sustainable agriculture than Wes Jackson.”

— from People We’re Pleased To Know

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Recently, I stopped for lunch and a soft drink while out running errands on a sweltering hot day. Never did I expect to learn about an interesting man who founded The Land Institute while sipping a much-needed drink. The soft drink cup carried this man’s story.

A plant geneticist and former professor, Wes Jackson founded the non profit organization in 1976 that’s working “to transform agriculture by cross-breeding traditional, annual food crops like wheat, sunflowers and corn with deep-rooted perennials. Planted in mixtures, they would diminish the need for pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, in addition to saving water, greatly reducing erosion and replenishing the soil.”

Agricultural philosophies

I looked up more information about Jackson after I returned home, and found lots of interesting things written about his agricultural philosophies and his life-long work. He wants farmers to succeed while also maximizing environmental standards to replenish the land.

It is his impressive work which has landed him in such places as Smithsonian Magazine as one of 35 “Innovators of Our Time,” putting him in the company of such people as Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg and Maya Angelou.

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,” he is quoted in one online article.

Born on a farm in Topeka, Kan., in 1936, Jackson was raised working on the family farm and developed an interest in the prairie soil. He studied biology, botany and received a Ph.D. in genetics. The Internet carried many stories of this man who has written several books, including New Roots for Agriculture which outlines the mission of The Land Institute.

Much more aware

What ends up happening in this world today, once someone is recognized, the news of their accomplishments can be shared with the entire world much more quickly and efficiently. It is certainly playing a part in making us all much more aware of working together for a common good.

Years ago, author and screenwriter Louis Bromfield left Hollywood to return to his home in Richland County, Ohio, and set about trying to buy back the farm of his youth. Once he established Malabar Farm, he realized how the soil had been depleted by years of crop producing. He began establishing conservation-minded agriculture practices.

Unheard of

His methods and forward-thinking mentalities were unheard of in the 1940s and 50s, but people did begin to take notice in this region. Today, if Bromfield were still alive, much of his sustainable agriculture practices would be shared in a very broad way, thanks to the Internet and an audience that would be more open to his thoughts and heart-felt beliefs.

Instead, one of the few facts that is repeated about Louis Bromfield is that his friends Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married at his Malabar Farm home. That is hardly what he would have hoped to have been remembered for.

Innovative philosophies in the area of sustainable practices within agriculture ends up benefiting us all, whether it is through better use of land or healthier fruits, vegetables, grains and meats for everyone.

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  1. You ought to do more thorough research before you publish your articles. Especially if you live on a farm in Ohio. I mean, get in a car and drive to Malabar. There you will learn that Bromfield moved back to Ohio from France, not Hollywood—though he did write screenplays. He also never attempted to buy back the actual farm where he was raised. He also didn’t suddenly discover that the soil was all beat up. He already knew that. Sheesh. If you’re going to write about Bromfield—or anyone—the least you can do is take the time to get the facts straight.


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