Archive for Monday, July 29, 2013

Former Westar chief, wife give rural Lawrence farmstead to Salina-based Land Institute

July 29, 2013


The Salina-based environmentalist agriculture group The Land Institute is beginning to work more closely with Kansas University scientists, and now that work is about to become a lot easier.

The group, led by a KU alumnus who received an honorary doctorate from the university this year, announced Monday it had received a donated 65-acre farmstead just northwest of Lawrence, which it will use as a research area and gathering place.

The gift comes from Jim Haines, who retired in 2007 as CEO of Westar Energy, and his wife, Cindy. They will leave the rural property, appraised at $1.2 million, to move into Lawrence.

“This is big for us,” said Wes Jackson, president of The Land Institute. “This opens up so many options that we currently don’t have out there in Salina.”

That includes easy access to KU scientists and students, he said.

The Land Institute already earlier this year launched a cooperative research effort with KU, Kansas State University and the Konza Prairie. Having a research site only minutes away from KU, rather than hours away in Salina, will only make that easier.

KU researchers will help with the institute’s research on perennial grains, which Jackson says would help decrease soil erosion, reduce chemical use and lower carbon emissions if they could replace the annual grain crops commonly used in agriculture, which die and must be replanted each year.

The partnership with KU will also allow the institute to educate and train graduate and undergraduate students who could someday themselves become researchers focusing on this kind of agriculture, designed to resemble the natural ecosystem of a prairie.

“It’s going to help a lot, because of the knowledge that is within the universities that can be applied, and also the chance for people to be trained and educated,” Jackson said.

The property includes a 3,000-square-foot stone-built home built in the 1880s, listed on the Register of Historic Kansas Places as the Gorrill Farmstead, as well as 50 acres of farmland, where the institute will further study perennial grains.

“It’s a wonderful place,” said Jim Haines, who has lived on the property since 2003.

Haines said that he and his wife, Cindy — who reviews movies for the Kansas City public radio station KCUR — realized after they heard about the planned collaboration among the universities and the institute that their property could be a big help.

“We follow what the institute is doing, and we’ve always been very impressed with the vision that Wes Jackson has,” Haines said.

The Lawrence farmstead will become The Land Institute’s largest piece of property outside of its Salina headquarters, but those headquarters are not moving, Jackson said.

Jim Haines said he and Cindy had gotten more involved with farming since moving to the rural property and supported Jackson’s push for more sustainable practices.

“We think that’s a noble cause, and we’d like to be a part of it if we can be,” Haines said.

Jackson founded the group in 1976, and though it hasn’t yet developed seeds that it can give to farmers to use for crops — it’s working on developing larger yields — it’s getting closer, Jackson said.


Joe Hyde 4 years, 10 months ago

This gift enables more than a "noble cause". It enables the cause of human survival.

Farming practices being developed by the Land Institute will let farmers enjoy satisfactory yields in a hot, hostile environment and/or earn satisfactory yields in a weather environment marked by extremes. If nothing else, the Land Institute's work gives farmers everywhere more options to consider.

What's cool about the Land Institute is its aim is to make farmers and other growers productive and profitable even during periods of weather extremes worse than what is common to our planting zone. This is no easy trick, and it's never been tried before on this scale. If it works, any farmer who embraces the methods will be among the last group standing should things go seriously haywire weather-wise.

shipoffools 4 years, 10 months ago

Wow. What a tremendous gift by Jim and Cindy Haines! Two of the nicest people.

ugottabekiddin 4 years, 10 months ago

This is huge!! EVERYONE wins. Thank you Haines!!!

William Weissbeck 4 years, 10 months ago

OK, I have to pour some water on this. $1.2 million? 65 acres? That's over $18,000 an acre. Sorry, but I see tax considerations predominantly at play.

webmocker 4 years, 10 months ago

"WWWW 26 minutes ago OK, I have to pour some water on this. $1.2 million? 65 acres? That's over $18,000 an acre. Sorry, but I see tax considerations predominantly at play."

WWWW obviously knows nothing about the buildings on the property, nor about the development threats in that area. If ignorance is bliss, happiness may follow.

asixbury 4 years, 10 months ago

The sell was also to prevent, as webmocker below mentioned, development in that area that would see it become largely industrialized. This is great news for them, the Land Institute and for Lakeview nearby.

formerfarmer 4 years, 10 months ago

The house is valued by the County at over $600,000. The remaining value for farm land is high, but considering the industrial uses east and west of the site, not unreasonable. A very generous donation in my opinion.

asixbury 4 years, 10 months ago

Does the Land Institute in Salina still hold the Skywatches? I had so much fun at those while attending KWU.

asixbury 4 years, 10 months ago

Jim gave away land that he bought with his hard-earned money. Sure, he will get some deductions on his taxes for the gift, but nowhere near as much as the land is worth. When was the last time you gave away that significant amount of your personal assets to a good cause? You berate him for doing a good deed? Sounds like you are a very bitter person.

olddognewtrix 4 years, 10 months ago

Many years ago when in law school my wife and young daughter and I lived on the Gorrill Farm, but in a small one bedroom ranch style house that later burned down. Mr Gorrill was a lawyer but was a banker by trade. His wife(widow) was a Shawnee Indian who earned a nursing degree at Haskell.She was a nurse for Dr. will Menninger and commuted to Topeka daily.Mr Gorrill was a friend of "Uncle Jimmy Green" the famous dean of the KU Law School.

When she died her estate wanted a reliable tenant. We loved the place. The house had its own gas fireplace and Mr. Gorrill's law library including several autographed books from Dr. Menninger. I discovered Uncle Jimmy Greens silver headed walking cane in a back closet and convinced the estate to give it to the Law SChool. The farm had two small ponds that were great for fishing.

We took a sizeable cut in our standard of living when we graduated and moved to Manhattan.


CtYankeeKS 4 years, 10 months ago

What a generous gift and I echo all the positive comments above! As a neighbor, I appreciate the protection of green spaces along with all the benefits that I hope the research will bring.

olddognewtrix 4 years, 10 months ago

Postscript to my earlier comments. Mr. Haines replaced David Wittig as CEO of Westar and by hard work brought the company back to solvency. He was a hero to long time employees whose whole retirement plan was based on values of Company stock. Mr Wittig was sentenced to prison for other shady dealings with a Topeka banker but, escaped responsibility for his running Westar into near bankruptcy. Olddognewtrix

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