Casting a Long Shadow

Celebrating Fred Kirschenmann’s Impact

Born on a North Dakota farm during the Great Depression and in the grips of the worst drought in U.S. history, Fred Kirschenmann has spent most of his life working to change how we farm, as well as our relationship to the land.

To honor Stone Barns Center’s board president, to mark his 80th year and to celebrate the influence he has wielded in sustainable agriculture, we are launching the Kirschenmann Lecture at Stone Barns Center, on June 18. The annual lecture will explore many of the topics that Fred is most passionate about, such as resource depletion, the principle of “shared value” and the land ethic. Wendell Berry, the poet, writer and conservationist, and Fred’s long-time friend, will be the first guest speaker. A video of the event will be posted on our website after the event.

For more than four decades, Fred has been a champion of agricultural resilience, an articulate advocate for soil health and a pioneer of organic farming. His influence as an educator, mentor, philosopher and farmer runs deep and far. Even as he became a public figure dedicated to leading an agroecological revolution in thinking and practice, Fred has remained intimately involved in the management of his family’s farm, which he converted to certified organic in the 1970s.

All told, the body of his work has helped transform what was once obscure and marginal work—resilient, sustainable agriculture focused on the health and restoration of the soil—into an international movement. And he’s been recognized widely for this achievement. In 2011, Fred was among the first 10 recipients of the James F. Beard Foundation Leadership Awards. Last year, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements awarded him its Lifetime Achievement Award.

Fred’s book, Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher, combines rich story-telling with the insights he’s gleaned over the years farming and thinking about farming’s impact on the world around us. It’s a fascinating glimpse into Fred’s mind and life.

Click here to read an interview with Fred that probes his own early and transformational experiences with organic agriculture, the intersection of religion and soil, and where he still finds inspiration and energy.