Leopold Center Working With New York Food & Ag Center

Leopold Center at ISU shares staff appointment with New York sustainable ag center.

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University has a unique partnership with a sustainable agriculture center outside New York City: they are sharing the services of Distinguished Fellow Fred Kirschenmann, former director of the Leopold Center.

The Leopold Center and the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture located in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., have signed an agreement to share Kirschenmann's appointment between the two organizations. He'll remain as Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center, a post he has held since 2005, while serving as president of the nonprofit Stone Barns Center. The New York center will reimburse the Leopold Center for costs of the arrangement.

Kirschenmann has been associated with Stone Barns since 2001, when European-style stone farm buildings and 80 surrounding acres from the Rockefeller estate were donated to establish a sustainable agriculture center. Kirschenmann served on a national team of experts to oversee restoration and development of the center that opened in May 2004.

Both Iowa and New York centers benefit

"Stone Barns approached us with the idea of dividing Dr. Kirschenmann's time between the two organizations," says Leopold Center director Jerry DeWitt. "Both centers will benefit from this partnership and it will create new networks, ideas and approaches for our work."

DeWitt says Kirschenmann will continue his busy schedule speaking to groups throughout the country on behalf of both centers. He'll also oversee several national projects for the Leopold Center, including Agriculture of the Middle. At the Stone Barns Center, he'll help with team building, work with its two farm managers, assist with program development and continue to serve on the board of directors.

"I think we can learn from one another and explore sustainable agriculture in urban settings as well as rural settings," Kirschenmann said. "Our next generation of farmers will be caught in an industrial model with high levels of inputs. But as energy costs go up and our natural resources become depleted, we need to rethink our production system to apply some of the same ecological principals we're developing in rural communities to urban settings."

Urban people learn about sustainable ag

The primary goal at Stone Barns is to provide quality educational programs that improve understanding of and participation in local, sustainable and healthful food systems. The center operates a four-season vegetable farm and pastured livestock operation with chickens, turkeys, sheep, bees and pigs. The farm sells its vegetables, eggs, meat and honey at an onsite Farm Market three days a week, and is a major source of the local food served at Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant and Blue Hill Café, which are operated privately.

The center is located only a 45-minute drive from downtown New York City. Kirschenmann says the agricultural programs have been very popular, especially among young families who enjoy seeing where their food comes from. Adult programs include cooking classes, workshops, lectures and in-depth book discussions with noted authors. Programs for children include school tours, farmer-in-training after-school activities and a summer day camp.

DeWitt says the trial arrangement will be evaluated at the end of 2008. Kirschenmann also manages his family's 3,500-acre organic farm in North Dakota. He served as Leopold Center director from July 2000 through November 2005.

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