Kansas Land Trust hosts annual fundraising event with author Sarah Smarsh to promote land conservation

photo by: Josie Heimsoth

The Kansas Land trust's event featured remarks from New York Times bestselling author and journalist Sarah Smarsh, who urged Kansans to support land conservation, on June 20, 2024, at Lawrence's Cider Gallery.

At the Kansas Land Trust’s annual fundraising event, the organization announced the goal to close on three conservation easements by the end of the summer.

On Thursday, the Kansas Land Trust hosted its Summer Solstice Celebration at Cider Gallery to raise funds and awareness for the 30-year-old nonprofit. The organization works with willing landowners to develop voluntary conservation agreements to preserve wildlife habitats.

“We do this work to protect over 40,000 acres across the state of Kansas on, I am very pleased to say, 81 conservation easements,” said Kaitlin Stanley, director of the Kansas Land Trust. “We closed Wells Farm conservation easement last week.”

photo by: Josie Heimsoth/Journal-World

The Kansas Land Trust announces the recipients of the 2024 Friend of Conservation Award on Thursday, June 20, 2024, at Lawrence’s Cider Gallery.

The 130 acres surrounding Wells Overlook Park include natural land with prime agricultural soils, ecologically significant habitat and natural cultural heritage. As the Journal-World previously reported, Wells Farm is a Farm Bureau Century Farm, meaning it has been continuously owned by a single family for 100 years or more.

Stanley said for the past 30-plus years, Ken Lassman, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and their families have worked to overcome persistent challenges so they can assure this special place will be intact for future generations.

“In addition to the Wells Farm conservation easement, the Kansas Land Trust anticipates closing on two more conservation easements this summer,” Stanley said.

The event also featured remarks from New York Times bestselling author and journalist Sarah Smarsh, who urged Kansans to support land conservation.

“Whatever issue I speak on, for me, the Earth is always primary and has always been in my writing,” Smarsh said.

Smarsh, a Kansas native, has reported for the New York Times, the Guardian and many other publications. Her debut work, “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth,” was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the National Book Award. Additionally, it earned the Chicago Tribune Literary Prize and a best-books-of-the-year selection by President Barack Obama.

She will be publishing her next book, “Bone of the Bone: Essays on America by a Daughter of the Working Class,” on Sept. 10. Smarsh is also at work on a book about the endangered tallgrass prairie ecosystem – a habitat with less than 4% remaining intact, mostly in the Kansas Flint Hills – which will be published in spring 2026.

“In the process of researching and reporting the book about the prairie,” Smarsh said, “I have talked with painters, poets, jewelry makers of various racial and socioeconomic backgrounds who all have in common that they want to do their practices here (with the prairie).”

To recognize people for their support in protecting local ecosystems like the prairie, the Kansas Land Trust awarded its 2024 Friend of Conservation Award on Thursday to Larry Akin and Linda Renner on behalf of the Akin Family.

In 1994, Tom Akin, a landowner in Douglas County, dedicated 16 acres of native wildflower prairie on his farm to honor his late wife, Dorothy Akin, ensuring its permanent protection. The Kansas Land Trust presented this award to thank the Akin family for their support and stewardship of this prairie.

photo by: Sabrina Buchane/Journal-World

Kelly Kindscher talks to group about native wildflowers at the Akin Prairie Wildflower Walk on Saturday, June 3, 2023.

“It’s a very special place that means a lot to our family,” Renner told the Kansas Land Trust. “We’re thankful that organizations like the Kansas Land Trust help keep land from turning into buildings and parking lots.”

In addition, the event showcased live music from Old Fangled, food by Bon Bon, locally brewed beer by Sandhills Brewing and activities celebrating the extra daylight that comes with the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Additionally, every ticket sold and every contribution made at the event will go toward supporting land conservation efforts in Kansas.

This celebration kicked off the Kansas Land Trust’s summer fundraiser with a goal of raising $50,000. People are able to make a pledge before the campaign ends July 31 on the Kansas Land trust website.

“There is no more important cause than ensuring protection of the very earth through which we live, and there’s no piece of earth closer to my heart than Kansas,” Smarsh said in a press release.


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