Salina

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Salina, Kansas, may seem an unlikely Mecca for environmental activists, but it is — thanks to the Land Institute.

The Land Institute started with the bold idea that for farming to work long-term, farmers have to reverse a fundamental mistake they made 10,000 years ago when they started growing crops that have to be planted annually.

Now, after four decades developing alternative ways of raising grain, the leader and funder of the Land Institute, Wes Jackson, is stepping down – just as the scientific research going on there is ramping up.

Health officials say about 30 children in Saline County have elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Jason Tiller, director of the Saline County Health Department, says more cases could be discovered as public awareness of the health threat grows.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

With his silvery hair, his sun-and-wind-weathered skin, formidable stature and a booming, resonant voice, Wes Jackson steps out of his pickup truck in a blazer, radiating confidence. But 40 years ago, when he'd just given up a tenured professorship in California to set up shop in rural Kansas with the goal of transforming not just agriculture but the way humans live, he was appropriately daunted by the scale of his own ambition.

"I did it with a lot of doubt," he says with a laugh. "Especially in the middle of the night."

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

Meet a prominent thinker who's a Kansas farm boy and "prairiebilly" turned geneticist, and hear the story of how and why he became a leader in the sustainable agriculture movement back in the 1970s. Jackson is retiring as president of the organization he started: The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. 

Guest:

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

In Salina, along the railroad tracks, in the shadow of grain elevators, next to a gravel lot filled with industrial propane tanks, is the headquarters of Acoustic Sounds.

It’s run by Chad Kassem. He’s originally from Louisiana.

“Back in the mid-’70s every teenage boy had a stereo, or most of the boys in my neighborhood had a stereo, and maybe a hundred albums,” Kassem says. “So I wasn’t any more of a collector than most of my friends.”

By the time he was 21, though, Kassem’s drinking and drug abuse was causing him trouble with the law.

“I came to Kansas to get sober in 1984. That’s where the judge picked.”

As we know, Kansas has alcohol, but in general, there were fewer distractions for a man who needed to dry out.

Voters in Salina, Kan., will decide this fall whether to end fluoridation of the city's water supply.

The city has been adding fluoride to its municipal water supply since 1968, as a low-cost way to improve residents’ dental health. That practice could end this November.

Petitions submitted to the Saline County Clerk have been verified as having enough signatures to force the issue to a vote. The question to be decided in the general election is whether the 1968 city ordinance that approved water fluoridation should be rescinded.

Bryan Thompson / KPR

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback wants lawmakers to extend a temporary sales tax hike as a way to fund the state's universities.

The governor says cuts to higher education would be a momentum-killer at a time when he thinks a lot of positive things are happening in Kansas. Lawmakers are hesitant to extend the sales tax hike, which was approved in 2010 on the condition that it would expire July 1 of this year.

Following a tour of the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Salina, Brownback called the facility a great place to invest.

KU To Open Medical Training Program In Salina

Mar 19, 2010

Kansas City, Mo. – The University of Kansas is expanding its medical school to train more rural doctors.

KU's school of medicine has announced it's opening a four year medical program in Salina, Kansas. It's geared towards the practice of rural medicine.

Dr. Michael Kennedy is KU's Associate Dean of Rural Health Education. He says physician shortages are a problem in rural areas because med students from those places often don't go back.