By Avery Amensen
With Iowa State University’s position as a change-maker regarding issues such as food security and sustainable farming, it makes sense that students would flock to Ames to learn how to shape tomorrow’s agriculture landscape. What may not be so common, however, is students seeking to influence agriculture through their writing.
Adam Blake Wright, a third-year graduate student at Iowa State, is pursuing a dual master’s degree in creative writing and sustainable agriculture.
“I want to write about food and couldn’t ask for a better combination of majors to help me achieve this goal,” he said. “Being from North Carolina, I underestimated exactly how dominant agriculture is in Iowa. There is a reason this state is called the Heartland of America, and as such, I am learning more about agriculture than I ever expected.”
“Currently I write about sustainability for the food magazine Edible: Iowa River Valley. I would love to be a professional food writer,” said Wright. “Until that dream happens, I hope to work in farm-to-school education. I love working with children and believe wholeheartedly that our current agricultural structure will change dramatically as we face issues like climate change, growing populations, and peak oil in the coming decades. It’s so important to prepare youth for these challenges, as they will be dealing with them much more directly than any generation before.”
In 2015, Wright served as a writer-in-residence for the Iowa Lakeside Lab, a 147-acre biological field station in the Iowa Great Lakes region. Additionally, he is working on a young-adult novel that deals with agricultural issues. “I am about halfway done with my first draft and hope to have the second half of the book done by the end of the year,” he said. Wright received support from the Dr. Pearl Hogrefe Creative Writing Fund in spring 2015, allowing him the time to concentrate more fully on his craft. And it paid off, as he received an award from the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts for an article he published in Edible last June.
Anticipating the future of the agriculture industry and preparing to tackle global challenges such as food insecurity is an important task, and Iowa State is up for the challenge. But with that comes other factors, including training advocates in all fields – especially communications.
“Change can’t happen in isolation. It needs to be facilitated through educated writers who can tell the story of what is going on,” Wright said. With Iowa State’s master’s program in creative writing and environment – one of the few in the country – students learn how to be effective communicators in many areas, including forestry, policy work, activism, and, yes, agriculture. Wright leads the way in this endeavor, proving that Iowa State is up for that challenge, too.