Unwinding with Paul Stock: Optimist and Environmental Sociologist

Image shows D. Bryon Darby photographing a farmer by a fence as Paul Stock watches on. Text: Paul V. Stock. Optimist / environmental sociologist. Logo: Unwinding, a podcast

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” – Mr Rogers

Paul Stock, an environmental sociologist at KU, is a helper and carer. He’s driven by that same Mr Rogers optimism as he seeks to understand and consider solutions to some of the great challenges facing the world – inequality, food insecurity and environmental degradation. For Paul, the solutions lie in the creative capacities of us all to rethink how we do things and to make choices that, no matter how small, make the world better. In his research, Paul points to the examples of experimental uses of land for entrepreneurial food growing, like the Common Ground project here in Lawrence, Kansas, and to the potential of small farmers around the world to model new ways of doing things that address global issues. Small-scale projects can have big impacts, especially when they are the result of collaboration between students, community leaders and people across the world.

In this episode of Unwinding we sat down with Paul Stock at a Common Ground plot in Lawrence – with the crickets, bees, train horns and all – and discovered why everything you think you know about farmers and farming is wrong. Listen along and then check out the New Farmers project, a collaborative research project between photographer D. Bryon Darby, designer Tim Hossler, and Paul. An observation of today’s independent farmer, the project is an ongoing exploration of experiments in contemporary farming. You can check out images from the New Farmers exhibition held in the Wichita Art Museum here.

Oh, and this episode also includes a beautiful passage from Phil Holman-Hebert of SweetLove Farm, admiration of Mr Rogers, a story of beer, hot-dogs and baseball, and stick around for a motivational conclusion at the end that we’re listening to every morning.

It’s Unwinding with Paul Stock:

Unwinding is a podcast that tells the human stories driving the minds and talents of the University of Kansas. In each episode we sit down with KU researchers in a favorite or familiar setting to chat about what they’re working on, why they’re passionate about it, why it matters, and what makes them tick as humans. You may find us on campus, running the trails, on a farm, at a coffee shop or down at the pub. Wherever the location, the conversation explores the fascinations and motivations that produce new discoveries.

Unwinding is a collaboration between The Commons at KU and KU’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. The Commons is a catalyst for unconventional thinking, interdisciplinary inquiry, and unexpected discoveries across the sciences, arts, and humanities. The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences is the heart of KU. It’s home to more than 50 departments, programs and centers, offering more than 100 majors, minors and certificates. A collaborative and creative community, the College is committed to making the world better through inquiry and research.

Music: Lee Rosevere‘s “Let’s Start at the Beginning