Western State Colorado University in Gunnison will be among the first to host a new ecospheres study workshop developed by the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas.

Western State Colorado University in Gunnison will be among the first to host a new ecospheres study workshop developed by the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas.
The workshop will be offered next June as part of the university’s summer institute.
The ecosphere workshop is designed to help students envision a new model of
agriculture in which humans see themselves as embedded in the natural environment and part of an interdependent web rather than separate from it.

“Enacting the Ecosphere Story,” as the workshop will be titled, will use creative
expression and aesthetic interpretation to create “alternative stories of agriculture” while exploring questions of identity and ethics, project developers said.
The curriculum was formulated back in June when a gathering of around 30 farmers, philosophers and artists convened in Salina. It also includes input from artists at the University of Kansas and the Kansas City Art Institute.

Bill Vitek, a professor at the Center for Humans and Nature at Clarkson University in New York, is collaborating on the project. He described it as “hunches and hypotheses” about the future of agriculture rather than preconceived ideas.

“It’s about looking for things we haven’t yet discovered to get us out of this rut we’re in,” added Fred Iutzi, who took over as Land Institute president from founder Wes Jackson a year and a half ago.

That might sound a little vague and esoteric to some, but not to Rebecca Glazer, a
senior at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. She traveled to this year’s Land Institute Prairie Festival with 11 other students.

“It’s very much like the major I designed for myself,” she said.


Originally from the San Francisco area, her studies focus on philosophies of
sustainable development with an emphasis on how humans perceive their relationship to the earth across history. It’s an interdisciplinary study program that spans the departments of philosophy, history and environmental studies.
Speakers at the annual Prairie Festival typically include as many poets and
philosophers as research technicians. At this year’s festival, the audience heard from several young and beginning farmers, including Severine von Tscharner Fleming, who lives in Maine and runs The Agrarian Trust, a nonprofit that helps young people secure access to farmland.

One of Glazer’s favorite speakers was Catherine Sneed, founder of The Garden
Project, located in her hometown of San Francisco. Sneed came up with the idea of
engaging the local prison population in food production as a way to break the cycle of crime and poverty. Since the 1980s, the project has transformed many abandoned buildings and fields into urban farms that grow organic vegetables for homeless shelters and soup kitchens, while helping ex-prisoners cultivate job training and life skills.