Jim Knopik has been farming longer than anyone in the room. When it’s his turn to address our impromptu gathering, he glances around the dinner table, briefly making eye contact with a few of the twenty so or folks here—many of whom he’s inspired or mentored over the years—then he launches right into it.
“I live west of Fullerton, Nebraska. I have since I was a year old. When I was a year old there were 49 residences within two miles of that place. Now there’s four. So I guess I see what the importance of community is because it’s been lost.”
Jim apologizes and leans forward in his chair, resting on his elbows, overcome. It’s a long moment. Everyone firmly but silently communicates their support. And for our three-member Leap delegation, it really hits home that this is not going to be an ordinary listening session.
On a research trip to the Omaha area, we’re meeting with a group of Nebraskans who champion a small-scale, sustainable approach to farming known as “regenerative agriculture,” to hear about their hopes and challenges going up against the corporate status quo. Nobody here who knows Jim has heard him talk like this before.
“Anyway,” he abruptly continues, “there’s a lot of good things that come from community, and that for the last 20 years I’ve been trying to bring back to ours.”