Sub Omnibus Terra – That is Latin for ‘under all is the land.’ It was the motto at LaSalle Partners’ Land Group where Greenleaf founder, John Andersen, worked with Greenleaf Board Member Kurt Little. This year on July 22nd, Kurt completed 30 years of service at this global real estate services firm now known as JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle). At his anniversary celebration, stories were told by colleagues from around the world of the many contributions Kurt has made to clients and societies addressing land utilization, as often as possible doing so with a strong sustainability ethic embedded in the solutions. Because land is central to real estate assets and services, the Land Group’s sustainability initiatives started a movement at JLL that is now core to many of its services.
This summer Greenleaf interns, Will Carey and Jamie Passaglia, spoke with Kurt and other Greenleaf board members and partners to learn a bit about land and what brought these seasoned experts to work with it. Below is a brief profile.
Kurt Little‘s land ethic grew from his childhood experiences on a farm in Michigan – providing the basis for his work in real estate: “the ability to look at a land tract, understand topography and drainage, look at natural assets on those properties, and then incorporate those issues into a development plan was always intriguing,” he says. Like other members of Greenleaf’s network, Kurt has the capacity to understand specific environmental issues in the context of bigger systems. He takes a broader look at development, guiding his work by asking “how do you leverage certain green methodologies out there to deliver and drive value or savings to your clients?” It is an ethic that runs throughout Greenleaf’s board members and partners.
Ron Chamberlain founded and is Chief Agronomist for Gypsoil, now a division of Beneficial Reuse Management. Gypsoil is focused on helping farmers and communities understand the value of gypsum (calcium sulfate) and its use as a soil amendment to improve soil quality and prevent nutrient runoff. Ron didn’t think sales and marketing would be his destiny—“my first job was as a fertilizer salesman,” he says, “and for me, that was an eye-opening experience.” Like other members of the Greenleaf network, Ron’s ethics and curiosity guided him towards sustainable solutions to agriculture. He grew up on a farm where the rich smell of tilled fields filled the air each season. As he worked the fields, his observations filled his mind with questions – why did corn stalks not decompose after spending two years underground? How could a soaking wet field dry out so quickly once the crust was broken? Over decades, Ron studied soil and anaerobic conditions underground – allowing him to understand what contributes to healthy soils so he could guide producers with sustainable solutions.
Another voice in support of gypsum is Greenleaf board member, Darrell Norton, past head of the USDA-ARS national Soil Erosion Research Laboratory and Adjunct Professor at Purdue University. Responding to our interest in his numerous scientific research contributions, Darrell said he “never planned it, but that’s just how life happens sometimes.” He too grew up on a farm in Indiana. Darrell proudly notes that, even when he was young, “we were probably as close to an organic farmer as almost anybody in the neighborhood…we made pretty much everything we consumed on the farm.” Darrell’s research and engagement with policy leaders has been central to the recent establishment of a new National Conservation Practice Standard on gypsum. “It’s been kind of exciting to see how just a little part of your research career can be picked up and actually make a change in the world,” Darrell says.
Pierre-André Jacinthe is a soil and water expert at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. He came to the US after earning an agronomy degree in his home country of Haiti. Pierre describes his struggle when, starting a master’s degree program as a new arrival to the US, he was asked to produce a research proposal: “I spent a couple sleepless nights thinking, ‘wow, what can I do that nobody else has done?’” And yet, he says, “my first proposal got funded.” Pierre’s research is helping to change the way policymakers and farmers think about gypsum, and he hopes his work will extend beyond the US. He wants his research to be used not just by “the large farms and people who can get information, but the small farmers in the developing countries that rely just on their small piece of land to feed their family.” Pierre’s work with nutrient runoff is a cornerstone of Greenleaf’s gypsum research – you can read about Pierre’s research here.
Ron and Darrell emphasize that farmers don’t intend to work against the environment; as Ron says, “Farmers always want to make their land better…and often times that is good for the environment.” They agree that innovations have to make economic sense. Pierre further notes that government support of a new practice and its demonstrated effectiveness is essential to soften the financial risk and get it incorporated into neighboring farms and the community.
Greenleaf’s board members and partners share a common mission of stewardship that is in many ways informed by their relationship with the land. It inspires them to improve the way we build on the land, farm it, and live.