This op-ed co-written by current and former ISU students in the ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture originally appeared as an Iowa View contribution to the Des Moines Register on May 23, 2017.
Leopold Center needs a bold vision for the future
Last month, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University celebrated 30 years of collaborative research with Iowa’s communities. This month, Gov. Terry Branstad vetoed legislation eliminating the center — allowing it to remain open — but redirected the center’s state funding to the school’s nutrient reduction research center.
Without this needed funding, the center’s future remains in jeopardy. In the last month, an outpouring of testimony, petitions, calls and letters to the editor from beginning and established farmers, local foods advocates, current and former ISU students, researchers, and community leaders from across the state and country have made clear their support for the center and that its interdisciplinary and community-based work is not yet done.
As current and former ISU students who have been actively organizing support for the center, we call upon Iowa State University to remember its land grant mission and to be bold in redesigning and rebuilding the Leopold Center. We ask ISU’s leaders to engage Iowans in a robust dialogue as we reimagine a vision for the Leopold Center’s future and put that plan into action.
We envision a Leopold Center that continues to support biophysical research to develop agricultural practices that preserve water quality, soil and crop health, as well as landscape vitality.We envision a Leopold Center that continues to support and celebrate the social sciences so that we may better understand the impact of our food and agriculture systems on people as individuals, as communities, as nations and as a planet.
We envision a Leopold Center that continues to support agricultural arts, because we recognize that feeding the human spirit is also essential to personal and community health.
We envision a Leopold Center that attracts the attention, talent and expertise of students and faculty, and captures additional research dollars from around the country and the world.
In addition to the above, we envision a Leopold Center that is supported in a creative, scientific pursuit of holistic and interdisciplinary strategies to address the challenges of climate change, soil erosion, water pollution, rural exodus, land transition and food justice in our state and in our agricultural system at large. The center’s history of collaboration and its state and national support position it well to lead this overdue work.
We know that now is the time for a bold new Leopold Center that builds upon the work of the last 30 years to pursue research that partners with a variety of communities long into the future.
The road to rebuild the Leopold Center in this vision will not be easy: Questions of future funding, administrative hurdles and plans of action will not take care of themselves. But we believe that we cannot achieve what we cannot imagine.
If you agree with this vision for a new Leopold Center, please contact interim ISU president Ben Allen and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences administrators and share why.
ANDREA BASCHE, ANGIE CARTER, CARRIE CHENNAULT AND GABRIELLE ROESCH-MCNALLY are current and former students in Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Learn more: iowasustainableag.com