Updated: Mar 26
Jean Larson grows beautiful vegetables. This week, she harvested vibrant lettuce, leeks, parsley, and kale for delivery to a few local families who are part of her developing community support agriculture initiative.
Jean lives with her husband John at their homestead, Shady Hill Farm, in Batesville and is a dedicated student of regenerative agriculture and a passionate climate advocate.
When Jean joined the Arkansas Citizens’ Climate League Board in 2017, she was leading a new Citizens’ Climate Lobby Chapter in Jonesboro – a position she still holds along with serving as the CCL State of Arkansas Co-Coordinator.
“I’ve been on boards my entire adult life,” she said. “What’s so important about the League is its acknowledgement that all communities in Arkansas are going to be affected by climate change. Many of our communities aren’t positioned to deal with extreme weather, and many are dealing with longstanding structural racism and poverty.”
Jean pointed to The Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing, which the League adopted in July 2019, as a guide on how she and the other board members examine issues and make decisions. These principles were formed during the environmental and economic justice movements in the mid 1990’s.
She also has a knack for fundraising, a skill she began honing during her first board experience with The Old Wye Mill in Maryland.
“This mill ground grain for George Washington’s troops and had been used commercially until the 1930’s. In the mid-1990’s an incredible group of individuals – architects, historians, and gifted tradespeople – worked together to restore the mill to working condition,” Jean explained.
The flour was then sold in the Mill museum that volunteers created in the 17th century structure’s basement.
“I had two young kids, then, and a love of history. We [the Mill Board] held fundraisers, including a huge pancake breakfast with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and a fair. It was all worth it. The beauty of the building and the ingenuity were just fantastic.”
She had a similar experience while serving on the Board of the Land Trust of The Treasure Valley in Boise. At the time, some of the trails were on public property and were at risk of closure. Their board held a series of dinner fundraisers with Jean, an accomplished chef, sourcing local food and preparing meals for several of the gatherings.
“We started with buying one of part of the trails,” she said, “and now all that land where the trails run has been preserved.”
Jean said her tenure with Citizens’ Climate League has been just as satisfying. She thrives on the special synergy that occurs when people with diverse backgrounds and skills come together for a greater purpose, she said.
An emotional defining point for her happened at the 2019 Citizens’ Climate Education Tornadoes Regional Conference in Fort Smith. The League had provided multiple scholarships for climate and environmental justice advocates from south Arkansas to attend the conference.
“It was so compelling to talk with members of these small southeast Arkansas communities and to hear their take on what would help reduce pollution and the problem of climate change, Jean said. “Facilitating these kinds of dialogues between climate-concerned citizens is a big part of what the League does. These relationships change everyone.”
Along with the other members of the board, Jean is also a financial donor.
“I donate because I appreciate the work that our staff do in providing outreach and building local relationships. Having a great staff is critical to supporting our volunteers with their advocacy and education, just as is the League’s work of providing conference scholarships to regional and national educational events. These events support local leaders in better representing themselves and broadening their connections with climate justice advocates.”