Photo Credit: Connie Falk
Dr. Fred Kirschenmann, a longtime leader in national and international sustainable agriculture, is Distinguished Fellow for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. From July 2000 to November 2005, he served as the Center's second director since its creation in 1987. Kirschenmann came to the Center from south central North Dakota where he operated his family's 3,500-acre certified organic farm. He continues to oversee management of the farm.
Kirschenmann holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Chicago, and has written extensively about ethics and agriculture. He has held national and international appointments, including the USDA's National Organic Standards Board. In 2006, he was appointed to the 19-member National Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production operated by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and funded by Pew Charitable Trusts to conduct a two-year examination of key aspects in the farm animal industry.
He is also a board member for the Food Alliance, Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area, The Nature Institute, and the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture at the Rockefeller Center in New York. He chairs and is a charter member of the Whiterock Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that manages a 1,300-acre conservation area in west-central Iowa. Kirschenmann also helped convene and continues to be active in a multi-state task force, Agriculture of the Middle, that focuses on research and markets for midsize American farms.
In 1976, Kirschenmann returned to the family farm when his father became ill. By 1980, the farm was certified organic, one of the early operations to make the transition. The farm is a natural prairie livestock grazing system that combines a nine-crop rotation of cereal grains, forages, and green manure.
Kirschenmann Family Farms has been part of a number of research studies. It also has been featured in national publications including National Geographic, the Smithsonian, Audubon, Business Week, the LA Times and Gourmet magazine. In 1995, Kirschenmann was profiled in an award-winning video, "My Father's Garden," by Miranda Productions, Inc.
In 1978, Kirschenmann helped organize North Dakota Natural Farmers that later became the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society. He helped found and for 10 years was president of Farm Verified Organic, Inc., an international private certification agency.
In 2001, Kirschenmann received the Seventh Generation Research Award from the Center for Rural Affairs for his work in sustainable food and farming systems. He also was named a 2002 Leader of the Year in Agriculture by Progressive Farmer publications. His essay, "Ecological Morality: A New Ethic for Agriculture," appears in Agroecosystems Analysis, a monograph published by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and the Soil Science Society of America.
The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture was created by the Iowa Legislature to develop sustainable agricultural practices that are both profitable and conserve natural resources. Since his appointment to the Center, Kirschenmann has been a frequent speaker, engaging audiences to help shape a new vision for agriculture. New Center directions include research initiatives in marketing and food systems, ecology and policy.