Education and advocacy for sustainable agriculture
Laura Lengnick has explored agricultural and food system sustainability through more than 30 years of work as a federal researcher and policy-maker, college educator, community activist and farmer to understand what it takes to move sustainability values into action on the farm, in our communities and as a nation. Trained as a soil scientist, Laura’s research in soil quality and sustainable agriculture systems at the Beltsville Agriculture Research Center in Maryland was nationally recognized with a USDA Secretary’s Honor Award in 2000. She has broad federal policy expertise gained through work as a U.S. Senate staffer, USDA agency staff, and a lobbyist advocating for sustainable agriculture in the U.S. Congress. Laura has grown organic vegetables in Tidewater Virginia and in western North Carolina for community supported agriculture and farmers’ market sales. She has a long history of collaboration in community-based research, education and advocacy for sustainable agriculture and food systems.
Laura led the academic program in sustainable agriculture at Warren Wilson College for more than a decade, where she also served as the Director of Sustainability Education, and taught courses featuring agroecology, whole farm planning with holistic management, sustainability assessment, sustainable decision-making and change leadership. Laura mentored the design and establishment of a permaculture garden at the EcoDorm, facilitated student-led energy descent action planning for the campus, and led the development of an innovative sustainable dining policy for the college. While on sabbatical in 2011/12, she contributed to the 3rd National Climate assessment as a lead author of the 2012 USDA report Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation. Laura left Warren Wilson in 2014 to serve as Co-Director of Resilience Initiatives for Second Nature, a national non-profit working for a just, healthy and sustainable society through the transformation of higher education.
In 2015, Laura launched Cultivating Resilience, LLC, a consulting firm offering ecosystem-based climate risk management and resilience planning services to civil society, business, and government. In 2016, she joined Climate Optimize, Inc, as a founding member and Vice President of Resilience. Laura holds an adjunct faculty position in Horticulture at North Carolina State University and is affiliated with Fernleaf Interactive.
In her free time, Laura enjoys working on her 2 acre biointensive mini-farm tucked away in a lovely south-facing cove in the Swannanoa valley. She delights in singing classic swing, is an accomplished dance fiddler, and regularly performs at contra dances and private events in the Asheville region and beyond.