The annual Northeast Organic Farmers Association of New Jersey conference – a joy-filled gathering of organic farmers and backyard fruit and vegetable growers from the tristate region — will be held Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020 at the Douglass College Student Center at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. NOFA-NJ’s winter conference always boasts a bevy of interesting guest speakers, thought-provoking panelists and instructional seminars. Here is a short profile of one of our guest speakers this year:
Liz Carlisle, PhD
Author and organic farming educator Liz Carlisle is a Lecturer in the School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University, where she teaches courses on food and agriculture, sustainability transition, and environmental communication.
Carlisle, also a native of Montana, earned a Ph.D. in Geography from U.C. Berkeley and a B.A. in Folklore and Mythology from Harvard University. She has served as legislative correspondent for Agriculture and Natural Resources in the Office of U.S. Senator Jon Tester of Montana. Recognized for her academic publishing with the Elsevier Atlas Award — which honors research with social impact — Liz has also written numerous pieces for general audiences. Her stories have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Business Insider, and Stanford Social Innovation Review, among other publications.
She is the author of two books: Lentil Underground and Grain by Grain, coauthored with fellow Montana farmer Dr. Bob Quinn.
Carlisle insists in her book, Lentil Underground, that there is much to be learned from these tiny legumes, and for the past decade she has immersed herself in lentil agriculture, ecology, and economics. Along the way, she has become something of a lentil evangelist and activist, as her passion led to her thoroughly engaging book. The book tells the story of a small farmer on a 280-acre patch of land in the Northern Great Plains, who dared to take a stand against agri-business by planting what others considered weeds. David Oien led a small network of farmers in his conservative Montana county that investigated the wonders of lentils, demonstrating to skeptics that they enrich the soil, create their own fertilizer, and thrive with little moisture. Years of work resulted in Timeless Seeds, now a million dollar enterprise that sells lentils and heritage grains not only locally, but to foodies across the country.
Given her background as a singer-songwriter, Carlisle remarked in a Rootstock radio interview that her career transition from country music singer to sustainable agriculture lecturer was indeed an organic one: “I think it’s really important stories that our farmers and land stewards have to share with us all. And it’s just been a wonderful journey for me through the music, through working for U.S. Senator Tester—from my home state of Montana and an organic farmer—and now in my teaching role, to get to hear those stories straight from those land stewards and those farmers and understand what it is the rest of us need to do to help support them in their stewardship, connect them with young sustainability leaders of the future, and just continue to participate in building this really exciting food system movement.”
Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America won the 2016 Montana Book Award.
Given her undergraduate background as a student of folklore and mythology and her experiences as a country / Americana singer-songwriter around Cambridge, Mass., parts of Montana and in Stanford, Calif., Carlisle is always a most engaging, thought-provoking and entertaining speaker.