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Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest 2014 Environmental Writer-in-Residence

January 26 & 27, 2014

The Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest welcomed Gary Nabhan, author, farming and food advocate, and W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Arizona Southwest Center, as the 2014 Environmental Writer-in-Residence in late January.

Gary is a leading voice in the local food movement and a tireless advocate of cultural and ecological diversity in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. An author, scholar, educator and grassroots conservationist, Gary has been instrumental in the creation of a more “just, nutritious, sustainable and climate-resilient 'foodshed'" in the desert Southwest. His environmental writing has garnered international acclaim and a Lannan Literary Fellowship; his twenty-four books have been published in six languages. The recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, Gary has performed pioneering research in ethnobotany, pollinator habitat, and heirloom seed saving, much of it on his small permaculture farm in Patagonia, Arizona. As an advocate, Gary has brought together diverse stakeholders in the Southwest—including ranchers, farmers, and indigenous peoples—to forge a new “radical center” on issues of conservation, environmental justice, and climate change.  
According to Nan Jenks-Jay, Dean of Environmental Affairs, “Gary is that rare public intellectual who lives his values and isn’t afraid to envision a more just, sustainable future for human and plant communities alike. His writing is lyrical, incisive. His energy—as organizer, author, and farmer—is inspirational, and he embodies the independent thinking that the Franklin Environmental Center seeks to promote among our students and faculty. Gary proves that it’s possible to be both architect and builder in today’s environmental movement. He has done so fearlessly.”

The goal of the Franklin Environmental Center’s Environmental Residency is to bring today’s bravest and most influential thinkers to campus and ask them to engage with the community on timely, provocative topics.  Additionally, we hope to strengthen the visiting scholar’s bond with the College’s faculty, staff and students, and to develop connections with his or her greater networks by association.

During his time on campus, Gary visited two classes, “Sustainability: Writing and Rhetoric” and “Conservation and Land Management in Practice.” He led a discussion about his newest initiative, Make Way for Monarchs, and contributed his insights to the Franklin Environmental Center’s “Visioning Education for Environmental and Sustainability Education in the 21st Century” during a roundtable discussion.


Gary also engaged a larger audience though a public event with Schumann Distinguished Scholar Bill McKibben, “Local Food: Past, Present and What’s Next?” Gary and Bill shared readings from their latest books, “Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land” and “Oil and Honey,” reflected on their experiences in the local food movement, and envisioned the future of sustainable agriculture (event video). The event comes a decade after Gary first visited campus and spoke to Bill’s winter term class on the same topic; since that time, student interest in local agriculture and food systems has proliferated, making Gary’s return to the College a fitting one. We were pleased and excited to add his learned voice to the on-campus conversation around food studies at Middlebury.

Gary’s visit to Vermont marked the inauguration of the Bread Loaf Orion Environmental Writers’ Conference, a collaboration between the College and Orion magazine. Modeled on the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the weeklong Environmental Writers’ Conference will be held June 9-15 at Middlebury’s mountain campus and will feature distinguished faculty including Rick Bass, Jane Brox, and Alan Weisman. The Conference brings together resources and curricula from the College’s Environmental Studies program and Bread Loaf School of English in an effort to support the future of environmental literature, journalism, and poetry.  

“We couldn’t have chosen a more accomplished or gifted writer than Gary to open the Bread Loaf Orion Environmental Writers’ Conference,” said Jenks-Jay, noting that, in addition to the Lannan Literary Fellowship, Nabhan has been awarded a Southwest Book Award and John Burroughs Medal for nature writing. “He is precisely the kind of artist and advocate we aim to attract  for this Residency.”

The Franklin Environmental Center joined with Middlebury College Organic Farm, Bread Loaf Orion Environmental Writers’ Conference, Office of Academic Affairs, Program in Environmental Studies, and the Department of Biology to bring Gary to campus. Gary's visit also marks the continuation of Franklin Environmental Center’s professional residencies, following The Nature Conservancy’s Mark Tercek’s three-day residency last year. 

Gary Nabhan shares his impressions of Middlebury College and its students after visiting campus as the 2014 Environmental Writer-in-Residence.

Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest

531 College Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753