Kisha Lewellyn, 2005 Award Winner
At the time she won the Margolis Award, Kisha had recently finished an M.S. in environmental studies at the University of Montana, where she completed a series of essays titled Voices Hinged: A Triptych of Reflections on Farming and Ranching in the Bitterroot Valley. As a writer, she has focused on the "liminal space" between humanity and the ecology in various forms, including the ability of a piece of obsidian to conjure memories of the death of a loved one, and the tangible relationship between farmers and ranchers and working landscapes.
She writes: "I am always interested in the quieter voices that do not bustle for attention or shove their way to the top of the news hour -- voices that speak softly over cups of coffee and mingle with a backdrop of crows and tractors. I am drawn to these softer voices and daily moments because they offer touchstones of human hope and fallibility.
"The everyday moment also offers an entryway into a person's life, incrementally revealing stories of powerful change," she continues. "My essays on farming and ranching intentionally hone in on these voices, which have been neglected and silenced by lengthening chains of distribution, consumption and ignorance. In doing so, I hope to enliven the work and life of the daily farmer and rancher in order to reconnect eaters with growers and the land, and to shift the common perception of what it means to farm into a living, viable, connected part of our culture. As we recognize these relationships and the inherent economic, ecological and social costs of our food purchases on farmers, ranchers and working lands, we will be able to re-imagine the systems of food production and distribution, systems that we rely on for every other aspect of our lives."
In 2005, Kisha was working on an essay on the rising number of female farmers in the U.S. and the historical role of women in farming. "I hope to parallel the stories of a woman currently farming in western Montana and my great-grandmother, who owned and managed a North Carolina tobacco farm," she wrote in her submission for the Margolis Award. She also was working on a collection of essays and planned to teach a course titled "From Working Land -- The Literature of Agriculture."