Land Deal Enhances Conservation Mission

A deal involving land owned by Salina based The Land Institute will insure that the property involved will be a part of the organization’s mission of sustainability.

According to The Land Institute, two agreements reached with a Colorado foundation promise to bolster work in developing perennial grain crops. Those agreements with the Denver-based Malone Family Land Preservation Foundation include the sale of the historic Gorrill Farmstead just west of Lawrence and the creation of a joint project to further the research and development of perennial grain crops specifically designed to protect rural land and the surrounding environment.

The land sale, completed Friday, transfers the 230-acre Gorrill Farmstead property to the Malone Foundation, which was established by John C. Malone to conserve and preserve rural land. The sale price was the appraised value, $1.7 million.

Wes Jackson, president of The Land Institute, said protection of the land’s rural character was an important consideration in the sale. The land, adjacent to the busy Farmers Turnpike northwest of Lawrence, near the Lecompton exit of Interstate 70, is in development’s path.

The Malone Family Land Preservation Foundation intends to protect and preserve the natural and agricultural characteristics of the Gorrill Farmstead properties, which will continue to be a site for agricultural research, said Rye Austin, executive director of the foundation.

The land sale agreement follows an earlier pact, reached last year, in which the Malone Foundation and The Land Institute jointly created a “Perennial Agriculture Project” to further the research and development of perennial grain crops. The foundation has committed to provide $1.5 million annually to fund the Project for 15 years. The foundation’s final commitment to fund the Project’s work is in addition to The Land Institute’s budget, which is $3.1 million this year.

Jackson said the twin agreements provide the institute with greater continuity and will provide additional funding for perennial grain research. Under the Project agreement, the institute and foundation will work together to coordinate research strategies.

The Land Institute, founded in 1976, is developing perennial grain crops to be grown in diverse mixtures that will curb soil erosion, reduce the need for fossil fuels and chemicals in grain production, conserve water and allow food production within the bounds of a self-sustaining environment. Five doctorate-level scientists and two postdoctoral researchers conduct the institute’s research. Much of that work is conducted at The Land Institute’s home near Salina, but scientists are working with a growing number of institutions and researchers from across the world. A consortium that includes the University of Kansas and Kansas State University is being developed, and the gift more than a year ago of the Gorrill Farmstead has launched development of the Lawrence site as a focal point for genetic and ecological research.

Jackson said that The Land Institute’s agreements with the Malone Foundation “have improved the opportunity to cooperate with the University of Kansas faculty, undergraduates, graduate students and post-docs.” Jim and Cindy Haines, Lawrence, gave the Gorrill Farmstead to The Land Institute in 2013 and 2014. The property includes cropland, native woods, a large barn, a granary that has been turned into a meeting place, and a 1870s-era limestone home that has been fully restored and is listed on the Register of Historic Kansas Places.

Story prepared by: Scott Seirer / The Land Institute