Audience sitting at CERA

Prairie Studies Events

Listening to the Land: Lessons from the Land Remains

Neil Hamilton

Neil Hamilton
Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022
HSSC S1325, 4:15 p.m.

The discussion will focus on what we can learn when we take time to listen to the land. All land has a story, and every Iowan is a landowner. Whether land is owned privately or held by the public it carries with it a duty of care and a stewardship obligation. Iowa has a rich legacy of leadership in land stewardship, one we can build on in the years ahead.

Neil Hamilton is an emeritus professor of law and the former director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University in Des Moines. He retired from full-time teaching in 2019 after thirty-eight years focusing on agriculture and food law. Raised on his family farm in Adams County, he attended Iowa State University for Forestry and the University of Iowa for Law. Teaching, writing, and consulting work led to travels around the globe and across the state and nation. His advice is sought by presidential candidates, cabinet secretaries, reporters, and others looking for insight on issues involving farming, rural society, conservation, and land tenure. He has served for decades on a variety of non-profit boards including the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and Seed Savers Exchange.

The Land Remains blends personal memoir, a history of Midwestern land conservation, and an analysis of contemporary issues of soil health, water quality, public lands, and future challenges to tell the story how land shapes our lives. The Land Remains weaves stories from his career working with food and the land to bring a fresh perspective to a topic most people take for granted. The book is narrated in part by the voice of the Back Forty, a field on his family’s farm in Adams County. Influenced by past conservation leaders like John Lacey and Aldo Leopold, as well as efforts by current farmers and landowners who care for and steward the land. The book also weaves new insights from authors like Eddie Glaude Jr. and Jedidiah Purdy to trace the parallels in our attitudes toward the land to issues of historic racism, economic inequality, and environmental vulnerability rooted in our land history.

The Land Remains identifies reasons to be optimistic — we can find hope and resiliency from the land by examining how new attitudes toward land can address past abuses. Demand for better food is creating opportunities for better land stewardship and new farmers, land trusts are helping owners protect unique lands, and conservation practices to improve soil health and protect water quality are laying the foundation for how the nation will address the challenge of climate change. Whether you are a landowner or a citizen, our history and future are shaped by how we treat the land. The Land Remains will leave readers informed, inspired, and thinking differently about how land will shape the future.

Getting to Know the Place: A Talk on Iowa’s Environmental History

Joe Otto

Joe Otto, Special Projects and Partnerships Director
Soil & Water Conservation Society
Wednesday, Nov. 9, 4:15 p.m.

HSSC A1231

Want to know more about Iowa’s agricultural landscape as a place? Join invited Environmental Historian Joe Otto as he talks about how Iowa’s landscape changed from native wet prairie to row crop farming. Otto tells this story not from the land’s perspective, but from the water. The most important and least understood man-made feature of Iowa’s agro-environment is the system for managing excess water. Also known as drainage, it is the water management systems built by people in the late-19th and early 20th centuries that support the neatly aligned fields and farms you see today.

Joe Otto is the special projects and Ppartnerships director for the Soil & Water Conservation Society — an international nonprofit organization based in Iowa that is dedicated to advancing the science and art of natural resource conservation. In this role he directs operations for over $2 million in federal and state grants. He is also the society’s historian. In this role he preserves the history of the Conservation Movement and has built up the society as a leader in that space. He is also a doctoral candidate in History at the University of Oklahoma, where he specializes in the agricultural and environmental history of Iowa, with a focus on the management of public water resources and drainage infrastructure. Otto is deeply familiar with Iowa as a place, having grown up in rural Jasper County. His scholarship is based on interactions with Iowa’s lands and waters made over his lifetime, and a desire to share his knowledge and experiences with others who would like to learn about and know this place better.

Kayaking at CERA

Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022

Join Amy Andrews, naturalist with Poweshiek County Conservation and Emily Klein, CERA manager for a kayaking adventure on the pond at CERA. Each session will start with a quick lesson. Kayaks and life jackets will be provided.

Wild Edible Food Foraging Event

Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022

There is an entire grocery store of delicious, local, wild foods just waiting outside your backdoor! Join Mitchell County Conservation Naturalist, Chelsea Ewen Rowcliffe and Emily Klein, CERA manager and CPS Outreach Coordinator to get a “taste of the wild”! This session will pique your curiosity with some common wild edibles; focusing on how to identify key features of wild edible plants, knowing when and what to sustainably harvest, foraging safety, how to prepare, and even sample some wild flavors.

Chelsea Ewen Rowcliffe is a naturalist by both passion and profession, working and teaching for Mitchell County Conservation Board for over 12 years. She shares her enthusiasm for the outdoors with the public through environmental education programming and hosts several Wild Edible classes each year. She can also be found teaching at the Midwest Wild Harvest Festival and is listed as an Iowa Forager on

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Prairie Studies and the Mitchell County Conservation Department.

2021-22 Center for Prairie Studies Events

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