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Building Local Food Systems: 2 Case Studies

Thomas Nelson ’91How do you create a local food system? Two speakers will answer that question on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. They have experience in creating local food systems in two very different locations: the Bay Area of San Francisco and the Meskwaki Settlement in Iowa’s Tama County.

Jennifer Vazquez-Koster will speak about “Beginning a Local Food System at the Meskwaki Settlement” at 4 p.m.

At 7:30 p.m. Thomas Nelson ’91 will discuss “Community-based Strategies to Scale Up Sustainable Food.”

Both presentations, which are free and open to the public, will take place in room 101 of Grinnell College’s Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, 1115 Eighth Ave., Grinnell. Refreshments will be served. Grinnell College’s Center for Prairie Studies is sponsoring the speeches.

More and more people are interested in eating food raised near where they live because it is fresher, tastes better, and is often more nutritious, says Jon Andelson, professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Prairie Studies. 

Local foods are produced on a smaller scale and are more likely to be raised using organic methods, which make it healthier, Andelson adds. Purchasing food grown near where you live also contributes more to the local economy than buying the same food from big retail grocers.

But “buying local” can involve many challenges:

  • Is supply adequate to meet the demand?
  • How do consumers connect with farmers?
  • Are the types of food being raised locally also the types that consumers want?
  • Is local food out of the price range of many consumers?
  • If locally raised food is normally available for only part of the year, can anything be done to lengthen the growing season or make the food available year-round?

Answers to many of these questions can be found through the creation of local food systems. Going beyond ad hoc relationships and even such worthy organizations as farmers’ markets, a local food system is a coordinated, planned set of institutionalized relationships among farmers, consumers, businesses and communities, structured in a way that maximizes the availability of affordable local food to members of a community.

Jennifer Vazquez-KosterVazquez-Koster has been working on local food initiatives in Iowa for 10 years. As manager of the 2-year old Meskwaki Food Sovereignty Initiative, she oversees three garden-farm operations at the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama County.

These operations consist of a senior garden affiliated with the senior living center at the Meskwaki Settlement, a school garden and Red Earth Gardens, a large-scale commercial organic operation that sells produce through a Tribally Supported Agriculture (TSA) program, a farm stand and area grocery stores. The concept behind “food sovereignty” is for the Meskwaki to reclaim their food system from the national industrial food and agriculture system.

Nelson has been instrumental in advancing the local food system in the San Francisco Bay Area. He launched a community-based social enterprise, Capay Valley Farm Shop, which connects 54 farms and ranches in the Capay Valley to Bay Area families and enterprises such as tech companies, online grocery and neighborhood businesses. 

He is also a business advisor at Kitchen Table Advisors, a nonprofit that works with beginning farmers to help them market their products. In addition, he serves on the board of California FarmLink, which has created a statewide program of economic development support for beginning, limited-resource, immigrant and other underserved farmers across the state.

Exhibition of Nature Photographs

Owl perched on brown vegetation in a snowy field“Nature photography is my passion,” says Ken Saunders II, who retired from a long career with the College’s facilities management department in 2015.

“Looking at his photographs, one is compelled to add that nature photography is also his forte,” says Jon Andelson, professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Prairie Studies. “Ken’s striking photographs show us nature at its most beautiful. His favorite subjects are individual animals and plants, captured in their natural habitat at rest or in motion, with close-up or telephoto lens.”

Saunders took all of the photographs in this exhibit, titled “Portraits of Nature in Iowa,” within 40 miles of Grinnell. The exhibit will open Aug. 25 and run through Oct 15 in Burling Gallery on the lower level of Burling Library, 1111 Sixth Ave., Grinnell.

It may surprise some viewers that this diversity of wildlife can be found so close to our community, Andelson adds.  

It seems likely that Saunders would agree with Henry David Thoreau’s statement, “What’s the need of visiting far-off mountains and bogs if a half-hour’s walk will carry me into such wildness and novelty?” — though in fact he also photographs in other parts of the country, especially in the mountain west.

Saunders recalls getting his first camera — a Kodak 104 Instamatic, which retailed for $15.95 – when he was about 7 years old. Many years later he advanced to a 35mm film single-lens reflex camera, a Pentax, and then in 2003 began experimenting with digital photography.  He got his first digital single-lens reflex camera in 2006, a Nikon D200, and has been working in this vein ever since.

The Center for Prairie Studies and the Faulconer Gallery are co-sponsoring the exhibit of Saunders’ photography. An opening reception will take place at Burling Gallery) at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2. Refreshments will be served.

Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

 

 

 

Nature Photographer Ken Saunders II Exhibit Opens in Burling Gallery

Thursday, August 25, 2016 - 8:00am to Saturday, October 15, 2016 - 10:00pm
Burling Library

 

Exhibition: August 25 - October 15
Opening Reception: Friday, September 2, 4:00 p.m., Burling Gallery

“Nature photography is my passion,” says Ken Saunders II, who retired from a long career with the College’s Facilities Management in 2015.   Looking at his photographs, one is compelled to add that nature photography is also his forte.  Ken’s striking photographs show us nature at its most beautiful.  His favorite subjects are individual animals and plants, captured in their natural habitat at rest or in motion, with close-up or telephoto lens. 

All of the photographs in this exhibit, titled “Portraits of Nature in Iowa,” were taken within 40 miles of Grinnell.  It may surprise some viewers that this diversity of wildlife can be found so close to our community.   Ken could perhaps agree with Henry David Thoreau’s statement -- “What’s the need of visiting far-off mountains and bogs if a half-hour’s walk will carry me into such wildness and novelty?” -- though in fact he also photographs in other parts of the country, especially in the mountain west.

Ken recalls getting his first camera – a Kodak 104 Instamatic, which retailed for $15.95 – when he was about seven years old.  Many years later he advanced to a 35mm film single-lens reflex camera, a Pentax, and then in 2003 began experimenting with digital photography.  He got his first digital single-lens reflex camera in 2006, a Nikon D200, and has been working in this vein ever since.

The Center for Prairie Studies is pleased to co-sponsor this exhibit of Ken’s photography with Faulconer Gallery.  The exhibit is displayed in Burling Gallery and will run from August 25 to October 15.  An opening reception will take place at Burling Library Gallery (lower level) on Friday, September 2, at 4:00. 

Building Local Food Systems: Two Case Studies, California and Iowa

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Joe Rosenfield '25 Center Room 101

 

How do you create a local food system?  On August 31, in JRC 101, at 4:00 and 7:30 p.m., two speakers will share their experiences creating local food systems in two very different locations: the Bay Area of San Francisco and the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama County, Iowa. 

More and more people are interested in eating food raised near where they live.  It is fresher, tastes better, and is often more nutritious.  Because it is produced on a smaller scale, it is more likely to be raised using organic methods, which make it healthier.  Purchasing food grown near where you live also contributes more to the local economy than buying the same food from big retail grocers. 

But “buying local” can face challenges.  Is supply adequate to meet the demand?  How do consumers connect with farmers? Are the types of food being raised locally also the types that consumers want?  Is local food out of the price range of many consumers?  If locally raised food is normally available for only part of the year, can anything be done to lengthen the growing season or make the food available year-round?

Answers to many of these questions can be found through the creation of local food systems. Going beyond ad hoc relationships and even such worthy organizations as farmers markets, a local food system is a coordinated, self-consciously planned set of institutionalized relationships among farmers, consumers, businesses, and communities, structured in a way that maximizes the availability of affordable local food to members of a community. 

Jennifer Vazquez-Koster has been working on local food initiatives in Iowa for 10 years.  She is currently manager of the two-year old Meskwaki Food Sovereignty Initiative, an umbrella that encompasses three garden-farm operations at the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama County: a senior garden affiliated with the senior living center at the Settlement, a school garden, and Red Earth Gardens, a large-scale commercial organic operation that sells produce through a Tribally Supported Agriculture (TSA) program, a farm stand, and area grocery stores. The concept behind “food sovereignty” is for the Meskwaki to reclaim their food system from the national industrial food and agriculture system. 

Thomas Nelson ‘91 has been instrumental in advancing the local food system in the San Francisco Bay Area.  He launched a community-based social enterprise, Capay Valley Farm Shop, which connects 54 farms and ranches in the Capay Valley to Bay Area families and businesses, in the latter category focusing on tech companies, online grocery, and neighborhood businesses.  He is also a business advisor at Kitchen Table Advisors, a non-profit that works with beginning farmers to help them market their products.  He also serves on the board of California FarmLink, established in 1999, which has created a statewide program of economic development support for beginning, limited-resource, immigrant and other underserved farmers across the state.

Jennifer Vazquez-Koster will speak on “Beginning a Local Food System at the Meskwaki Settlement” at 4:00 p.m. and Thomas Nelson will speak on "Community-based Strategies to Scale Up Sustainable Food Systems" at 7:30 p.m.  Both presentations are in Joe Rosenfield Center ’25 101.  Refreshments will be served.  Sponsored by the Grinnell College Center for Prairie Studies.

About the Center

Mission

The Center for Prairie Studies promotes understanding of and connection to our place and its people.

The Center’s mission is to stimulate a broad understanding of nature and culture in the tallgrass prairie region, of how and why the region has changed over time, and of the challenges it faces today. Beyond seeking understanding, we are interested in cultivating a “sense of place” and in the goal of living sustainably in place. We encourage the Grinnell community to engage in responsible action toward that end.

Grass Workshop

The Grass Workshop at Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA) will consist of intensive, hands-on learning guided by one of Iowa’s top botanists, Dr. Thomas Rosburg. Field-based identification blended with classroom lectures, guided examination of live and pressed plant specimens, and use of technical identification keys will help participants gain practical knowledge of grasses. Participants will learn the language of grasses, the distinguishing features of the grass family, its major taxonomic subdivisions, and many grass genera and species, as well as the habits and ecology of common and rare members of the Poaceae family.

The Grass Workshop will take place at the 365-acre Grinnell College Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA), near Kellogg, in Jasper County. Morning sessions will take place in the Environmental Education Center and focus on (1) learning and identifying characteristics on sample specimens and (2) using dichotomous keys. Half-day field sessions will involve identification practice in restored and reconstructed prairies at CERA and prairie remnants and old fields at the Reichelt Unit of Rock Creek State, located west of Grinnell and close to CERA.

Dr. Thomas Rosburg (aka “Draceae”), Professor of Ecology and Botany in the Biology and Environmental Science and Policy Departments at Drake University, teaches numerous courses in ecology, limnology, botany, biological research and statistics, natural history and nature photography and regularly incorporates field trips in his classes to enhance learning opportunities. He often teaches summer courses at Iowa Lakeside Laboratory located near Spirit Lake, Iowa, and leads identification workshops across the state. Dr. Rosburg has served as President of the Iowa Academy of Science and on the Board of Directors for The Nature Conservancy, as well as an adviser or member on many conservation and science-oriented committees. Dr. Rosburg lives on a small farm, where he and his wife practice self-sufficient living raising livestock, fruits and vegetables. He has three children and one grandchild, and Tom’s hobbies include camping, backpacking, climbing, running, nature photography, reading and watching the Packers.

See the Grass Workshop 2016 brochure (pdf) for more information and registration information. Contact Elizabeth Hill with questions.

Sponsored by:

Art Projects

Prairie Cairn

Andy Goldsworthy: Three Cairns is the largest project in the Western Hemisphere by British artist Andy Goldsworthy (born 1956, Cheshire, England). The project spans the continent with permanent and temporary stone markers called “cairns” at sites on the two coasts of America and the Midwest. Two key components of the project in Iowa Prairie Cairn (Midwest temporary cairn) near Grinnell and the Three Cairns (Iowa permanent cairn) at the Des Moines Art Center.

For the Love of Food

From a young age, Ami Freeberg ’10 was in touch with where her food came from. “I grew up in Fairfield, Iowa, and there were a lot of people running sustainable farms there,” says Freeberg. “My mom fed us organic food from our garden and my sister, my mom, and I even set up a kind of farm-to-table café at the farmer’s market while we were in high school.”

This love of good food and interest in agriculture led her to pursue an internship with Cultivate Kansas City (formerly known as the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture) during her second year summer at Grinnell. She got funding from the Center for Prairie Studies so that she would be able to afford an unpaid internship. As it turns out, that experience was hugely important for her future.

Getting Her Hands Dirty

“I just fell in love with the organization and the work,” Freeberg says. “I had known I was interested in food and sustainable farming, but that internship really solidified those interests.”

As an intern, Freeberg worked on a program called New Roots for Refugees, a partnership between Cultivate Kansas City and Charities of Northeast Kansas to help refugees learn the skills necessary to establish successful farm businesses in the Kansas City area.

“We were working with people from all over the world who were resettled refugees, and they came with a lot of knowledge and experience in farming but didn’t have access to land or resources,” Freeberg says. “So we provided land and training and support to help them gain the skills they needed to graduate off of our training farm and start their own farm businesses.”

After graduating from Grinnell, Freeberg began working full time for Cultivate Kansas City as a program assistant. Over the years, she has transitioned into a variety of roles focusing on community outreach and communications in the organization. In February, she began working as the community organizer for the organization’s most recent project, the Westport Commons Farm, which is set to open in the next few years.

Cultivating the City Center

The Westport Commons Farm will be run as a farm business but will also have many opportunities for community engagement, participation, and education. The farm will be in the city center of Kansas City, Mo., in a field that used to belong to a school.

“It’s really exciting because we’re putting urban agriculture right in a highly visible place, in the middle of the city,” says Freeberg. “Our vision is to create a beautiful urban farm that gets people thinking about their food and gets them engaged with where their food is coming from.”

Because of the organization’s pursuit of this vision, Freeberg has thoroughly enjoyed working for Cultivate Kansas City for the past six years. “It’s always interesting and different. I’ve been able to progress and learn and develop my own skills in a context that I feel is really important,” Freeberg says.

“I have always valued good food. I think it’s the foundation of being a healthy, happy person, and I want other people to be able to experience that.”

Woodland Wildflower Hike at CERA

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 - 4:45pm to 6:15pm

 

Join CERA Manager Elizabeth Hill on a 1.5 mile spring ephemeral wildflower hike at CERA. Wear sturdy walking shoes and long pants to explore the spring ephemeral wildflowers at CERA!

Van leaves from Rosenfield Center drop-off zone at 4:15 p.m. Hike starts 4:45 p.m. at CERA, meet at Environmental Education Center.

Email Elizabeth Hill to reserve transportation.