Frederick L. Kirschenmann, a longtime national and international leader in sustainable agriculture, shares an appointment as Distinguished Fellow for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University and as President of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York. He also oversees management of his family's 2,600-acre certified organic farm in south central North Dakota and is a professor in the ISU Department of Religion and Philosophy.
Kirschenmann holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Chicago, and has written extensively about ethics and agriculture. He has held numerous appointments, including the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board and the National Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production operated by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and funded by Pew Charitable Trusts.
He served as the Center's second director from July 2000 to November 2005, when he was named a Distinguished Fellow. He joined the Board of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in 2004 and was elected president in 2007. In January 2008, he assumed a half-time appointment at Stone Barns, dividing his time between Iowa and New York, to explore ways that rural and urban communities can work together to develop a more resilient, sustainable agriculture and food system.
In April 2010, the University Press of Kentucky published a book of Kirschenmann’s essays edited by New Mexico State University agricultural economist Connie Falk. The book, Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher, follows his writing on farming, philosophy and sustainability. He has published articles in other books including Farm Aid: A Song for America, Agroecosystems Analysis, Sustainable Agroecosystem Management and Soil and Culture.
Kirschenmann also serves on numerous boards and chairs and is a charter member of the Whiterock Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that manages a 5,000-acre conservation area in west-central Iowa. Kirschenmann helped convene and continues to be active on Agriculture of the Middle, a multi-state task force that focuses on research and markets for midsize American farms. In 2008, he received the first-ever Medal for Distinguished Leadership in Sustainable Agriculture from the Glynwood Center in New York and was selected for Plenty magazine's Top 20 list of people dedicated to sustainability.
His academic credits include several years teaching and as administrator, culminating in a position as academic dean at Curry College in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1976 he 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.
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.