March 7, 2005 | By: Haven Miller

Gaines Center director Dan Rowland introduces panelists for a group discussion.

Poets, novelists, chefs, artisans, economists, farmers, journalists and students joined community leaders and agricultural educators for a unique symposium at the University of Kentucky March 4 and 5.

“Growing Kentucky: New Directions for Our Culture of Land and Food” was the first joint effort by the University of Kentucky’s Gaines Center for the Humanities and College of Agriculture.

Partners for Family Farms also co-sponsored the symposium, which explored future visions for Kentucky agriculture and rural communities within the context of rural economies experiencing transition and new directions.

“Our aim with this symposium is to consider all aspects of the state’s rural agricultural communities – the economic, the environmental, the social, and the spiritual,” said Dan Rowland, Gaines Center director.

Novelist Barbara Kingsolver reads from one of her books.

The symposium was preceded on March 3 by the third in a series of special Lafayette Seminars held at the Gaines Center.  The third seminar featured author Wendell Berry and UK agriculture dean Scott Smith.

“By bringing together a broad spectrum of talent and expertise from both agriculture and the humanities we hope to achieve some innovative outcomes from this event, which is the first of its kind for Kentucky,” said Scott Smith, dean of UK’s College of Agriculture.

Barbara Kingsolver, Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan and Davis McCombs were among the prominent writers who shared insights and participated in panel discussions during the symposium.  Other featured speakers included chef Alice Waters and designer Jon Carloftis,

Sessions offered opportunities for an open exchange of ideas.  Attendees represented a variety of professions and backgrounds, and included both rural and urban Kentuckians.

“If these diverse voices can be brought into harmony, then we can look forward to a sharply improved future for all of our citizens, urban and rural,” said Rowland.

Designer Jon Carloftis shares his insights with the audience.

“Rural Economies,” “Rural Communities,” "Local Food Systems,” and “Future Visions” were some of the topics that addressed themes of improving local economies while integrating food systems into communities. In addition to presenting lectures and readings, speakers engaged with more than 100 local and national participants to create a new vision for Kentucky’s heritage of food and culture.

“Growing Kentucky” was the latest in a series of symposiums that each year honor the life and work of Joy Bale Boone, Kentucky’s first poet laureate, who knew well the state’s rural culture.

A reception on Friday evening sponsored by Brown-Forman Corporation featured foods prepared by Kentucky chefs.

Other sponsors included the UK Art Museum, UK Office of Executive Vice President for Research, Kentucky Women Writers Conference, Black Swan Books, press eight-seventeen and Elmwood Inn Fine Teas.


Sources: Dan Rowland, 859-257-1537; Lisa Broome-Price, 859-257-1537;

Bonnie Tanner, 859-338-6887;Sue Weant, 859-233-3056.